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Philips Livable Cities lighting workshop

This workshop, run by lighting designer Tapio Rosenius and sociologist Marco Bevolo, combined theory and practice to improve our understanding of cities and make them better places to live using creative lighting design

A theory-led seminar in the City Halls introduced the concept behind the Philips initiative: the Urban Futures Matrix designed for Philips by Bevolo. The matrix provides 16 alternative ways of looking at and comprehending the urban design of the cities we live in. These were used as guiding narratives for the workshop, held in the neighbouring Old Fruitmarket. Because it retains its market-hall character - the signage of the old market stalls are still in place, as is much of the original ironwork structure - the potential was there for the five lighting teams to transform its darkened corners and consider the real-world challenges posed by urban darkness. Here, three participants recount their experiences of the day-long session.

David Bickle, Hawkins\Brown

Mention Barrowlands to any boomer into rock music and they’ll wax lyrical about the legendary Scottish music venue. Like London’s Ronnie Scott’s or New York’s CBGB, musos get all glassy-eyed when you mention Glasgow’s finest. So when invited to participate in a design charrette and lighting workshop that took in both the Barras (neighbourhood and venue) and The Lighthouse, Glasgow’s centre for design and architecture, I jumped at the chance.

Spilt into two groups, one half undertook the design charrette, the other a lighting design workshop. I barely know my ohms from my amps, so I thought the lighting workshop would be at the very least instructive. Our team, consisting of a city planner, a local architect and a Philips lighting philosopher,

quickly got to grips with the brief - pick a space in the Old Fruitmarket, design a lighting scheme and then deliver it.
We quickly staked our claim for what would be the site of our project. Curious and contradictory, it consisted of three components - the first a decommissioned cast-iron staircase cloaked in a heavy curtain; the second, a door that led to the toilets; and third, a newish off-the-peg galvanised steel spiral stair that replaced its cast-iron brother to meet fire regulations. All were connected by a common theme of passage and threshold.

Kicking off the design, conversations started with Kubrick (the bloody lift scene from The Shining), which then lead to Spielberg (the blinding white light from Close Encounters) on to Berlin-era Bowie via Dan Flavin, throwing in a healthy dose of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet along the way. The trinity of objects led to a healthy discussion about Dante’s Inferno and soon we were communicating a language of light that was as far from lumens and lux as you could get.

Next we were let loose in a stack of flight cases brimming with light fittings and control gear, given free rein to plunder the Philips portable lighting laboratory that also came with an obliging technician.

Armed with reels of gaffer tape and a tangle of cable ties, we rigged our fittings. Heaven was created with a halo of blue lights beneath the galvanised stair. Hell was conjured by concealing red LED spots to make a bloody pool beneath the cast-iron stair’s curtain, while Purgatory was a back-lit white sheet stretched behind a propped-open door to the toilets.

Finally we set about writing our pitch, a presentation to our fellow delegates. This took the form of what can only be described as performance art. Narrative and cultural reference points colluded to create our set piece and, with a liberal application of smoke and mirrors, we had completed a lighting design scheme to be proud of.

Cordula Weisser, ZCD Architects

Our group used the Old Fruitmarket as a testing ground for urban scenarios. Our ambition was to use light as a ‘material’ and explore its place-making capacities. We were interested in how sizes, intensities and shapes of lit areas might encourage particular social interaction, which could ‘activate’ the nocturnal urban space.

Urban lighting tends to either be utilitarian or spectacular but rarely at the human scale.We chose a bonfire, as the most archaic social gathering tool, as reference.

It took a while to achieve the desired colour - we programmed a mix of LEDs from one RGB light fitting. We tested different positions and made cardboard contraptions to achieve the right-sized circle for people to congregate around.

We tested it on the willing audience at the end of the workshop and everyone did indeed gather around, with that distinctive orange glow on their faces - it even started to feel warm after a while.

Laura Kinnaird, Reiach and Hall

Groups were mixed and then divided up to find their own site in this impressive venue. This was followed by an intense concept development guided by Marco Bevolo. We focused on the ‘re-purposed city’, a concept that re-contextualises past icons into cutting-edge contemporary experiences to help generate meaning in the future.

Rather than sidestepping our surroundings, we decided to use the detail of the Old Fruitmarket, specifically the balcony area, to help focus our experiment. We worked with three topics: light, shadow and detail and used a variety of Philips technologies to explore the changes in lighting and effect.
We tried a number of lighting situations to help re-think the history and detail found in the building’s interior. In the end, we developed two scenarios. One was seen from the market floor, where we illuminated the upper balcony, transforming its unwelcoming façade into a place filled with light, bringing it back to life and creating intrigue. The second experience was on the balcony itself, where we concealed the lighting source and encouraged the detail of the building to transform with a colour-changing effect on the balcony floor.

The technical aspect was difficult to execute but the Philips specialist helped pick the proper luminaires and explained how to achieve the desired effects. Most importantly it was a fun experiment, transforming a concept vision into reality and re-imagining the architectural language of the site.

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