Avery Drawings & Archives Collections

Abe H. Feder lighting records and papers, 1930s-1990s

Summary Information


This collection includes original and reprographic drawings, photographs, project files and office records documenting the professional life of architectural and theatrical lighting designer Abe Feder. Projects represented are primarily in the continental United States, with additional commissions in Canada, Puerto Rico, and Israel. Also included in this collection are substantial correspondence files and "data books" that record essential project information.

At a Glance

Bib ID 7030128 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Feder, Abe H.
Title Abe H. Feder lighting records and papers, 1930s-1990s
Physical Description 83 document boxes
Language(s) English .

This collection is available for use by appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For further information and to make an appointment, please email avery-drawings@library.columbia.edu.



Scope and Contents

Among Feder's best known architectural commissions were the lighting of the Prometheus Fountain and the GE/RCA building at Rockefeller Center, the Philhamonic Hall at Lincoln Center, and JFK Airport, all in New York City; also, the San Francisco Civic Center; the JFK Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.; several buildings for the 1967 World Exposition in Montreal; the University of Illinois' Assembly Hall; and the Israel National Museum in Jerusalem. As well, he received numerous commissions to light department stores, fashion shows, and other temporary events.

Feder maintained close professional and social relationships with many noted architects, interior designers, and artists, including Max Abramovitz and Wallace Harrison; Cecil Beaton; Carson and Lundin; Emery Roth & Sons; Harper and George; Melanie Kahane; William Lescaze; Morris Lapidus; Loebl, Schlossman, and Bennett; Shreve, Lamb and Harmon; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Edward Durell Stone; Frederick P. Victoria; Welton Becket and Associates; and Wurster, Bernardi, and Emmons. A small portion of the records in this collection also document his lighting designs for such noted theatrical productions as "The Boy Friend," "Camelot," "Four Saints in Three Acts," "Grand Hotel," "The King and I," "Inherit the Wind," "My Fair Lady," "Night of the Iguana," and "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever."

  • Series I: Project Records

    Over 300 lighting projects are represented in this series, the majority of which are for architectural works. While Feder was renowned for his innovations in the field of theatrical lighting design, he also had an equally prolific career in lighting prominent built works in New York City and throughout the United States. Feder worked on lighting commissions for some of the most eminent architects and architectural firms of his time, including Carson & Lundin, Edward Durell Stone, Emery Roth & Sons, Haines, Lundberg, & Waehler, Harrison & Abramovitz, Kahn & Jacobs, Morris Lapidus, Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, and William Lescaze. When available, the architect or firm has been indicated. Unlike the architectural projects in the collection, the theatrical projects make up a very minor portion of the series and present only a sparse representation of the productions. The theatrical projects are listed first in the inventory. The dates of the series span the 1940s to the early 1990s. The series is divided into four subseries: Files, Drawings, Photographs, Data and Specification Books. The Files series is made up of correspondence, studies, reports, budget estimates, calculations, work sheets, and other papers. The Drawings series contains lighting location plans, fixture drawings, sketches, engineering drawings, architectural drawings, and manufacturer drawings to Feder's Specifications.The amount of drawings for each project varies from a few items to, at times, over 300 items. The Photograph series contains both interior and exterior views of over 100 projects. Some of the photographs in the series represent the only remaining images of now demolished buildings. Finally, the Data and Specification Books series provides technical information for over 100 projects.

  • Series II: Office Files/Correspondence

    This series documents the administrative activities of the Lighting By Feder office. The series is arranged alphabetically by title.

  • Series III: Seminars, Speeches, Publicity

    This series includes papers related to the speeches, seminars, and other activities where Feder was speaking on topics of lighting design (generally or for a specific project). The first subseries documents Major Workshops established by Feder primarily in the 1980s and 1990s including his most famous workshop "Dialogues with Light." The second subseries is arrange alphabatecially by topic or event name.

  • Series IV: Professional Papers

    This series includes documents complied by Abe Feder as a representation of the breadth of his work.

Using the Collection

Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is available for use by appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For further information and to make an appointment, please email avery-drawings@library.columbia.edu.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Columbia University is providing access to the materials in the Library's collections solely for noncommercial educational and research purposes. The unauthorized use, including, but not limited to, publication of the materials without the prior written permission of Columbia University is strictly prohibited. All inquiries regarding permission to publish should be submitted in writing to the Director, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. In addition to permission from Columbia University, permission of the copyright owner (if not Columbia University) and/or any holder of other rights (such as publicity and/or privacy rights) may also be required for reproduction, publication, distributions, and other uses. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of any item and securing any necessary permissions rests with the persons desiring to publish the item. Columbia University makes no warranties as to the accuracy of the materials or their fitness for a particular purpose.

Preferred Citation

Abe H. Feder lighting records and papers. Located in the Dept. of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

Custodial History

Gift of LaVerne Roston, 2008.017

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source of acquisition--Gift of LaVerne Roston. Accession number--2008.017.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Shelley Hayreh, Avery Archivist, in 2013-2014.

Revision Description

2009-06-25 File created.

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Architecture -- United States -- Designs and plans Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Electric light fixtures Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Expo (International Exhibitions Bureau) (1967 : Montréal, Québec) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Exterior lighting Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Feder, Abe H. Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Federal Theatre Project (New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Interior lighting Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lighting -- Special effects Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lighting -- Study and teaching Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lighting fixtures Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lighting, Architectural and decorative Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lighting, Architectural and decorative -- Catalogs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
New York World's Fair (1964-1965 : New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Public buildings -- Lighting Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Rockefeller Center Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Stage lighting Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Stage lighting designers Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Stores, Retail -- Lighting Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Theaters -- Lighting Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel (New York, N.Y.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Abe Feder was an architectural and theatrical lighting design engineer, practicing in New York City from the 1930s until the early 1990s. He was born on July 27, 1908 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and studied architecture at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, but left after his sophomore year. Feder worked briefly for the Goodman Theatre in Chicago before moving to New York City in 1930, where he began to establish his reputation as an innovative designer in such theatrical productions as Virgil Thompson's "Four Saints in Three Acts" and Orson Welles' "Dr. Faustus" the latter through the WPA's Federal Theatre Project. After World War II, he opened his own business, Lighting by Feder, in New York City and began to light built structures in addition to stage productions, becoming one of the most prominent architectural lighting designers in the United States. His projects ranged in size from small urban apartments to international airports, with many related bulb and fixture designs that are now standards in the industry. Feder is recognized as a founder of the lighting design profession in the U.S. and wrote and lectured widely on the subject. Feder was appointed the first president of the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) and was named a Fellow of the Illuminating Engineering Society of America. Feder was also inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in New York City in 1996. He died in New York City on April 24, 1997.