Highly effective

As clients catch on to the possibilities lighting can offer, special effects are coming into their own. Nicky Churchill looks at three examples

Traditionally, lighting design has been seen as part and parcel of an interiors scheme, with the designer specifying the fittings. There is often no budget for special effects, let alone a budget for a specialist lighting consultant.

But lighting designers are now coming into their own, as clients see the benefit of a creative consultant with in-depth knowledge. Special and theatrical effects are now being created on large and small projects, with many of the larger ones in the leisure and retail sectors. Kent’s Bluewater Park shopping centre is being lit by Speirs and Major; BDP Lighting is working on Cribbs Causeway Centre in Bristol, due for completion next spring; and Equation Lighting is to light the Lowry Centre at Salford Quays.

Point Hotel, Edinburgh

A fresh, new approach can be seen at the 50-bedroom Point Hotel in Edinburgh, with lighting design by Jonathan Speirs & Associates. Housed on a triangular site within a 1914 building, the first phase of the hotel was completed some two years ago. Phase II is currently on site and will more than double the existing capacity.

Generally, the lighting is in keeping with the minimalist interior, but there are a few surprises. On entering the hotel, the visitor is greeted by a bright yellow curved wall, flooded with light from wall-washers recessed into the ceiling. This houses the reception desk and sets the scene for the upper levels.

For the lobbies and corridors on the bedroom floors, JSA came up with the idea of using banks of coloured tubes hidden behind corners and columns. The fluorescent tubes are each housed in a plastic sleeve with coloured theatre gel inside it. The sleeve also serves to protect the light source. The result is a vibrant glow which reflects off the white walls.

The designers admit that it is something of a homage to the artist Dan Flavin, but it is also a very low-maintenance and low-cost solution. And it is easy to change should the owner want a special colour for a particular function, or to permanently change the look of the interior.

White Rose Shopping Centre, Leeds

In the White Rose Shopping Centre in Leeds, completed this spring, BDP Lighting has used projectors, fibre optics and neon to create an overhead lighting feature in the atrium. The gondola, as this construction has come to be known, is an eliptical shape made from PVC-coated glass fibre stretched across a triangular truss. The open weave fabric acts as a solar shield and has a 25 per cent light transmission. During daylight hours, the ambient light in the shopping centre gives it an opaque appearance; and after dark when ambient light is reduced, the fibre optics and neon within come to life.

Also known as “the surf board”, the construction is 45m long, 6m deep, and 6.5m at its widest. Fluorescents fixed to the steelwork reflect light upwards, while 22 generators in the overhead gantry power over 10 000 fibres. The gantry is also used for maintenance purposes.

The gondola is visible from outside the shopping centre, though it will certainly lose some impact during the long hot days of the summer. However, during the winter months, the designers hope that it will act as a beacon to draw shoppers and families into the area.

101 Bishopsgate, London

Fibre optics feature in the reception space of the new offices for oil company Lasmo, at 101 Bishopsgate in the City. Designed by architect Swanke Hayden Connell, the reception space features a glass column by artist Rudy Weller which represents a drill core. Lighting Design International has lit the column with four 150W metal halide light-boxes and fibre optics housed in the column. The light-boxes are arranged alternately, so that if one goes out it is not too noticeable, while the fibre optics serve to accentuate the different colours and patterns of the glass layers. The generators for the optics are housed in the raised access floor of the library adjacent to the reception area.

LDI has also used fibre optics to provide sparkle around the door to the lift lobby, though here, the black glass panel represents oil. Working closely with the architect, LDI has carefully sited the fibre optics to pick up key details on the etched glass.


Barn door Adjustable “doors” on the front of a fitting that shape the beam of light, preventing spill and glare

Cross fade Lighting change where some lighting channels increase while others decrease

Dichroic filter A coated glass filter that, through reflection of all other colours, only allows the required colour to pass. Gives a very pure light

Dichroic reflector A coated glass reflector that projects light forwards and heat backwards through the reflector. This reduces the heating effect of the light beam

Diffuser A filter which softens the light beam

Focused lighting Well-defined lighting which produces sharp shadows

Gobo A metal or glass disc or mask with a pattern etched in. This pattern can be projected when used in a spotlight

Iris Adjustable circular diaphragm which alters the aperture in a spot

Monochromatic filter Coloured plastic gel or glass that, through absorption of all other colours, changes the colour of the light beam.

Pan Horizontal (left/right) movement of an instrument

Parcan Simple instrument that holds a par lamp and therefore does not require any system of lenses or reflectors

Scroller Colour-changer where a roll of filters are taped together and positioned by a fast motor activated by a control system

Shutters A set of four beam-shaping arms located at the centre of the spotlight, to produce a sharp edge due to the optics of a spotlight

Compiled with White Light and Speirs and Major

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