CASE STUDY // Modulightor Inc



Address: 246 East 58th Street
New York, NY 10022

Owner: Ernst Wagner

Business: Customized light fixture

Rates for tours: 

Student Groups – $10 per person suggested donation, $100 minimum.
Other Groups – $15 per person suggested donation, $150 minimum.

Rates for rental:

5 hour event rental – $ 1,500
6 hour event rental – $ 1,800
8 hour event rental – $ 2,400


With a modular approach to fixture design, MODULIGHTORmakes customized light fixtures for interior designers’, architects’, & lighting designers’ clients. Hand assembled in a Paul Rudolph designed townhouse in the middle of New York’s decorative arts district.

The modular systems used to build the fixtures allow customized solutions at very reasonable prices as compared to other custom design houses.

Known for high style but also for a unique ability to solve lighting problems. These fixtures have that right mix of aesthetic and technical sophistication.

For over 30 years, MODULIGHTOR has been a favorite of many top design professionals. We look forward to working with your firm soon.



Brief History:

Paul Rudolph, the architect who started the Modulightor business with Ernst Wagner, was an American modernist architect who worked during the 50’s and 60’s. The Art & Architecture building at Yale is the most famous work by Paul Rudolph and it has been rededicated as the Paul Rudolph Hall since 2007. The building in which Modulightor Inc is located in at 246 East 58th Street
New York, NY 10022 was a project by Rudolph himself that uses changes in elevation to obscure the incredibly small width of the site which is only 20 ft wide. These subtle changes in height are achieved by stairs that dissolve into the built-in shelves on which the large collection of Rudolph and now Wagner are displayed.


AA Paul Rudolph

Credit: Rocio Santo-Tomás

Credit: Rocio Santo-Tomás

Exterior Rendering

Although Paul Rudolph’s career was somewhat short-lived due to issues like the rise of post modernism, the Paul Rudolph Foundation has since been working to preserve as much of Rudolph’s legacy. While his physical works are being preserved his approach to architecture should also be remembered as he was very adamant about abiding to the ‘two design ingredients’ he believed to be essential. These two ingredients were to always create interesting and memorable sequences of light and spaces and use contextual information to influence his design. These beliefs later matured to the thought that architecture should be functional and spatial sculpture. Visiting the Modulightor building was proof that a space could be an artistic expression of sorts while retaining the functionality in the space.




Tour Guide:

Ernst Wagner

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Owner of Modulightor Inc. and resident of 246 East 58th Street
New York, NY 10022. Was the previous director for the Paul Rudolph Foundation.

Ernst Wagner was an old friend of Paul Rudolph (they had known each other for over 30 years) and they decided to start the Modulightor business together in order to provide light fixtures that better accommodate the needs of designers such as interior designers or architects. Wagner saw the value of the architecture done by Rudolph which was why when Paul Rudolph passed away in 1997 Wagner started to actively work in protecting the works of Rudolph. In 2002, the Paul Rudolph Foundation was formed and this organization has since worked to preserve the not only the works but information related or pertaining to Paul Rudolph. While living in the residential area of the Modulightor building, Wagner oversees the production of the light fixtures made in the basements of the building as well as give tours to students and the public alike. Since the death of his good friend, Paul Rudolph, Wagner has also naturally picked up Rudolph’s pastime of collecting and has since added a large volume of his own collections in addition to the collection Rudolph had achieved during his lifetime. Wagner remains a true fan of Rudolph’s work and calls the building Modulightor is located as the only ‘true Rudolph interior’ left in the city.


IMG_0042      1 Credit: Rocio Santo-Tomás

General Information:

  • Modulightor Inc. is a business that produces custom light fixtures geared towards the needs of interior designers, architects, and light designer’s clients.
  • The business produces their light fixtures in-house.
  • The space serves as a showroom, fabrication lab, office, residence, and a mini museum in its own right.
  • The original building at the address was a wooden structured commercial building that was replaced with a steel structure.
  • Original intentions were for the building to be 7 stories high yet due to budget issues only 4 floors were realized. However, possibility for further development remains since exterior walls of the building were built to be able to support 3 more floors.
  • Spatial movement, circulation, and proportions were drivers of the design of the space.
  • Height and width of the space are constantly changing blurring the fact that the site is only about 20ft wide.
  • Paul Rudolph was a modernist architecture whose work lost acknowledgement with the transition into postmodernism.
  • Rudolph is most noted for his Arts & Architecture building at Yale which went through a $126 million worth restoration in 2007 when it was also rededicated to Paul Rudolph.


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