bethlehem LAM

As lighting designer Herve Descottes’ car barreled down Interstate 78 toward Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, he arranged for flights from New York to L.A., then to Paris and Istanbul. Bethlehem, amidst the list of world capitals on his agenda, struck a decidedly incongruous note.

Descottes was on his way to Bethlehem Steel’s defunct plant in eastern Pennsylvania. The city’s legendary steel holds together the Golden Gate Bridge and the Empire State Building. After the company went bankrupt in 1997, the city was required to radically rethink its purpose...