PlayhouseSquare in Cleveland's historic theater district is erecting what is claimed as the world's largest outdoor crystal chandelier. With a height of 20 ft (6 m) and comprising some 4,200 crystal pieces, the biggest surprise is that General Electric, which is designing the chandelier, believes it will stand up to Cleveland's extreme weather.

The original five theaters which defined Cleveland's PlayhouseSquare (the Ohio, Palace, State, Allen and Hanna Theaters) were constructed within a 19-month period during the US Depression of 1920-1921. Buoyed by the peculiar energy of the Roaring Twenties, it was followed by a period of economic prosperity that persisted until the Black Tuesday stock market crash of 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression.

Although the five theaters survived the Great Depression, they could not endure the Post-WWII flight of people and entertainment venues to the suburbs. All but the Hanna theater were eventually boarded up. When Cleveland's downtown was largely being renovated and rebuilt in the 1970s, these historic buildings were saved from destruction by a grassroots effort that culminated in Cleveland's PlayhouseSquare, still the world's largest theater renovation project, which is second only to New York City's Lincoln Center as the largest performing arts center within the US.

As part of an neighborhood transformation that began about nine months ago, PlayhouseSquare is building the world's largest outdoor crystal chandelier. The 20-ft tall GE Chandelier consists of some 4,200 crystal pieces and tens of thousands of LED lights and lighting modules. The light piece will be permanently suspended 44 ft (13.5 m) above the street from a special steel support system.

The holder of the Guinness World's Largest Chandelier title, the atrium chandelier at the Al-Hitmi building complex in Doha, Qatar (Photo: Beau McClellan)

PlayhouseSquare Manager Cindi Szymanski emphasizes that PlayhouseSquare is after the world record for the world's largest outdoor chandelier, admitting that it can't compete in terms of size with indoor chandeliers, such as the Reflective Flow chandelier in the Al-Hitmi building complex in Doha, Qatar.

The wild card here is Cleveland's weather, which is harsh for outdoor electronics and mountings even if not made largely of crystal. Temperature ranges from -20° F (-29° C) to 104° F (40° C), with winds as high as 85 mph (137 km/h). That ignores what happens during the severe thunderstorms, the tornadoes, and the occasional wandering hurricane. The unveiling is scheduled for May 2, 2014.

Update (Jan. 20, 2014): This story originally stated that the chandelier "will include tens of thousands of LED lights and lighting modules which will include General Electric's Industrial Internet interfaces." PlayhouseSquare Manager Cindi Szymanski contacted us to point out that although GE's LED lighting will be used, they won't use GE's Industrial Internet interfaces. We apologize for the error and have removed this from the text.

Szymanski added that, "The designer of the GE Chandelier is Dominique Alary, president of Lumid in Montreal. The lighting designer for the PlayhouseSquare neighborhood transformation project is Jay Winters (JK Design Group) and the master plan designer is Danny Barnycz (Barnycz Group)."

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