Light work

Three different European projects illustrate how innovative use of lighting can transform outdoor environments. Anna Bates looks at a temporary rooftop restaurant in Paris, a riverside in Gothenburg and a port in Bardolino

Nomiya Rooftop Restaurant, Paris, France by Pascal and Laurent Grasso
Perching on the top of the 70-year-old Palais de Tokyo Museum in Paris is a lit box, and inside it is a temporary restaurant.

The 12-cover dining room is the work of brothers Pascal and Laurent Grasso. Called Nomiya, it comprises a glass box and an outer skin of perforated metal that conceals the chef’s preparation area. The parts were made in the north of France, before being transported to Paris and lifted by a crane on to the roof of the museum where the structure was assembled.

But it’s between the metal skin and the glass that the Grasso brothers’ most important material is found – a strip of hidden LEDs. ‘Light is a really big part of our work,’ says Pascal Grasso. ‘We consider it like a material, and we like to use it in an abstract way.’

For this project, Laurent Grasso formed an image of the northern polar lights, which was perforated on to the metal sheet. When the LEDs are switched on, they shine through the perforations so that a pattern of light decorates the sky, ‘linking the project in the sky with the sky’, says Pascal Grasso.

Inside the restaurant, 40 white LEDs each hang from a metal tube, mimicking stars. The white light also helps to give the interior a more normal shade, and lessens the purple tinge on experimental chef Gilles Stassart’s creations.

The project was commissioned by the museum and its sponsor Electrolux. It will sit on the roof – now accessible thanks to the stairs and elevator which the brothers integrated – for a year.

Eriksberg Regeneration Project, Sweden by Ljusarkitektur
A lit crane spans the Gota river in Gothenburg, Sweden. It is one of a series of lighting interventions by native lighting design studio Ljusarkitektur to regenerate Eriksberg, the old dock area, and make it ‘a more human place’ for the residents moving in, says practice lighting designer Deike Canzler.

Ljusarkitektur designed the lighting for the footbridge, the river paths, the streets and a public space, but the studio’s favourite part of the project was lighting up the pre-existing crane to provide the town with a landmark that ‘reveals its industrial heritage, but in an elegant way’, says Canzler.

Only the inward-facing profiles of the crane are lit. The studio spent a large amount of time trying to control the direction of the light so that it didn’t spill on to the crane’s other sides – when you look face-on from a distance, all you see is a thin line of light that thickens as you move from one side to the other.

A five-minute walk down the riverside brings you to the footbridge, lit in the same shade of pink to link the two structures and ‘provide the missing piece of a rectangle shape that frames the town’, says Canzler. To make the riverside pedestrian-friendly, the walkways are lit with fluorescent tubes held in rough, stainless-steel fixtures that throw light on to the walls, diffusing it. At the end of the dock, an amphitheatre-shaped public space, designed in collaboration with Swedish architectural group Nyrens, is integrated with LED strip lights hidden under the steps so the whole space glows without any light fittings being seen.

‘We wanted to create an environment with visual interest,’ says Canzler. But the designers say it was also important to make residents feel comfortable. ‘People feel exposed in areas lit by tall floodlights, so all the lighting we used and made is on a human scale – people identify with it and it makes them feel secure,’ Canzler concludes.

Port Project in Bardolino, Italy by Ewo
Two helix-shaped street lights dwarf the yacht masts and sails at the port in Bardolino, off the shore of Lake Garda in Italy.

The 11m-tall lights were designed by in-house designers at Italian lighting producer Ewo to complement the shapes and silhouettes of the port and light it up at night. But while the lights might fit in, their form is far from discreet – the huge helixes bend from the base up, cutting across the view of passers-by to make their presence clear.

‘That’s what we wanted,’ says Ewo spokesman Tito Spaldi. ‘It’s decorating the streets with something that is normally generic. By day, you don’t need lights.’

The shape is formed using a special machine that Ewo’s founder, formerly an iron forger, designed in his previous trade; it pulls and twists the steel tube at the same time to create a helix shape. Six metal halide lights are fixed to each helix and, at the tip, blue LED lighting adds some ambience.

Commissioned by the local mayor, the helix lights are site-specific, but Ewo has also produced double-helix street lights for a square in Dubai using its machine, and hopes to use a similar process in future projects.

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