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Lighting & Signage: Shine on show time

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Leaps in lighting technology have brought spectacular effects to traditional and modern theatres, and striking features to retail, office and leisure settings, writes Felix Mara

To complement this month’s case study on David Hughes Architects’ Park Theatre, our overview discusses the lighting of entertainment buildings, with input from the project’s architectural lighting consultant, before going on to discuss new products and applications in other building types.

Lighting entertainment buildings

‘Hoare Lea Lighting’s theatre work falls into the two categories - heritage and contemporary,’ says partner Dominic Meyrick. ‘Heritage projects typically involve theatrical palaces which provided an escape for audiences and, with their opulent interiors and striking period facades, these temples of entertainment are strictly protected and often need to be lit in a period manner or taken back to the originally envisaged lighting - which has frequently been replaced by poor-quality mid-20th century refurbishments.’

In these projects, lighting designers and architects usually stay true to the original architects’ choice of materials and what Meyrick calls the ‘lit impression’, reinstating glamour, glitz and colour, using modern technology and expertise.

‘This is particularly true of auditoria, where the “oh and ah” of the first impression involves artificial lighting interacting with plush interior colours, gilding and architectural detail,’ says Meyrick. ‘Modern technology has come to the rescue of many “hard-to-get-to” built-in lighting features, with innovations such as fibreoptics and, more recently, the emergence of small LEDs with long lamp life and low power consumption.’

Foyers have also benefited from the leap in lighting technology over the past 15-20 years. However, they are under pressure from requirements to accommodate point-of-sale merchandise stands and upgraded bar areas. Both should be sympathetic to their surroundings, especially in their lighting, with more subtlety and less bling than is customary in other contexts.

Foster Wilson and John Muir’s Fortune Theatre

Source: Tom Cronin

Foster Wilson and John Muir’s Fortune Theatre

‘In terms of new technologies, the real winner has been external facades,’ says Meyrick. The large, difficult-to-maintain and energy-hungry luminaires of the past have been replaced by new lighting sources, while sophisticated lighting controls achieve spectacular night-time effects. Ernest Schaufelberg’s Fortune Theatre in London’s West End, restored by Foster Wilson Architects with John Muir and Hoare Lea Lighting is a good example. High-quality CGIs that accurately simulate the lighting of these facades are instrumental in gaining planning consent.

Meyrick argues that, although contemporary theatres like the Park Theatre are idiomatically different, their external lighting is governed by aims similar to those of their historic counterparts - to enhance their theatricality, add drama and colour, pick out architectural features and draw in people.

However, contemporary theatres’ interior lighting design is different. Auditoria are generally less opulent. Nevertheless, these are creative spaces and lighting gives them distinctive personalities. These ‘everyman’ auditoria have great sight lines from all locations and lighting that illuminate the space rather than transporting visitors to another world, which is now the exclusive remit of the stage itself.’

Contemporary theatres’ interior lighting design is different

The old taboo of allowing daylight into the auditorium has been challenged, for example at the Park Theatre, where the rooflights provide a different working space during the day, improve environmental performance and bring actors and stagehands into contact with daylight.

Because modern theatres are often located within multipurpose buildings housing cafés, libraries and sports facilities, foyers can have a variety of functions and their lighting includes many product types, such as track, spot and pendant fittings so they can be adapted to multiple community uses.

‘In theatre design, LEDs really come into their own,’ says Meyrick. Colour-changing LEDs, supplied by NJO Technology for example, make it easier to change the way spaces feel, enhancing performance facilities, potentially adding an extra dimension to an immersive experience, while offering long lamp life and being low maintenance.

Innovations in LED emergency output and compact drivers and batteries have also had an impact. Available now is small, low-cost, non-maintained emergency lighting that gives full output immediately - essential in entertainment venues, where people may not know the layout.

‘We specified Mackwell’s LED emergency luminaire for the Park Theatre,’ says Meyrick. ‘This meant we didn’t have to go down the traditional route of central battery/tungsten pygmy downlights, which was the norm in many theatres over the past 25 years.’

Lighting technology applications

Five years is a long time in office interiors. Lighting designer GIA Equation’s proposals for the fast-track refurbishment of Bennetts Associates’ 5 New Street Square office development in the City of London, itself completed in 2008, involved upgrading the lighting and replacing the ceiling for a more contemporary feel.

The original lighting proposal included 1 x 21W DALI 900mm louvred airhandling luminaires in continuous lines, providing an average illuminance of 400 lux. After luminaires were mocked up at GIA Equation’s offices, a 1350 x 300mm WILA 2 x 28W replacement tile was set up with Avic air-handling luminaires on a 3.9m chequer-board layout. Conical deglaring microprism optics were used. As WILA explains, these reduce direct and reflected lamp glare by 40 per cent compared with louvred luminaires. The average illuminance is now 500 lux and the installed electrical load is 1.67W/m2/100 lux. These figures include WILA E Connect Nero Power LED downlights and WILA E Connect core wall washing. Revisit in five years.

Manufacturers’ catalogues needn’t always be the starting point for lighting design

Manufacturers’ catalogues needn’t always be the starting point for lighting design. BDP worked with bespoke lighting manufacturer Architectural Lighting Works to revitalise the atrium of Liverpool’s 1986 Exchange Station office development. Clusters of four uplighters in cradles, conceived by BDP project designer Jasper Sanders as modern interpretations of chandeliers, provide high-level ambient lighting, supplemented at lower levels with task and spot lighting. The cradles are suspended above the concourse from existing trusses. Each comprises a pair of circular Siteco mirror reflectors mounted above four narrow distribution compact projector lamps. The reflectors are mounted on folded anodised aluminium arms, from which cradle frames housing projectors and power transformers are suspended, to create bright, even light.

10 Brock Street, London, designed by Wilkinson Eyre with lighting designer MBLD, with fins evenly backlit by LEDs that respond to daytime and evening light

Source: MBLD

10 Brock Street, London, designed by Wilkinson Eyre with lighting designer MBLD, with fins evenlybacklit by LEDs that respond to daytime and evening light

Wilkinson Eyre’s 10 Brock Street commercial development off London’s Euston Road has a striking ceiling, comprising backlit overlapping fins with complex 3D geometry. Lighting designer MBLD developed the best lighting strategy to evenly illuminate the fins, working to a maximum energy target of 20W/m² and a tight budget. Each fin is illuminated by double strips of white and RGB LEDs that are never switched on at the same time, creating lighting scenes that respond to daytime and evening settings. Downlights within the Barrisol ceiling provide the required colour rendering and illumination level. Overall, there is a good visual balance between the illuminated sculptural ceiling and glass boxes and the timber feature wall to the side of the central reception desk.

New products

For retail, office and other applications, GELighting’s Lumination LED Linear has a thin, ceiling-suspended illuminated lighting panel, powered by Intrinsix technology to maximise performance, control and effi ciency of the LEDs. When turned on, it produces an even glow. When off, it is nearly transparent with LEDs hidden inside the frame. The double asymmetric distribution provides glare-free vertical and horizontal illuminance.

Also for retail projects, IGuzzini has staked its claim to producing the first linear circular emission LED downlighter with the minimalist Laser Blade. Its light distribution avoids the dotted effects typical of single LEDs, achieving a single general emission. It is designed to produce a concentrated 25-degree light cone as well as general low-glare illumination with 50-degree cones using highly efficient lenses. The unit’s dimensions are minimal and its limited cone concentrates light on horizontal surfaces. It is also adept for accent lighting, picking out objects in windows and on shelves that are silhouetted against darker walls. IGuzzini’s iN30 system now incorporates LEDs, also offering reduced dimensions, careful control of light distribution and easy installation in continuous lines. It is particularly suited to workspaces with monitors where glare can be a problem.

Collingwood Lighting’s dimmable fire rated Halers H5 500 Trimless LED downlight is designed for seamless integration into plaster-finished ceilings. The LED module is fitted after the housing has been plastered into the ceiling, achieving a minimalist aesthetic by eliminating the need for a bezel. This is the latest addition to the Halers LED range, and is available in neutral white and warm white. The H5 500 Trimless is Part L compliant and, according to Collingwood, produces 80 per cent more light than standard halogen fittings and 40 per cent more than standard GU10 LEDs operating at 8.5W. With a 38-degree beam angle and an IP65 rating, it is suitable for use in bathrooms as well as other types of space.

Santa and Cole’s RAMA LED street lamp

Santa and Cole’s RAMA LED street lamp

For external applications, the upgraded RAMA LED, designed by Gonzalo Milá and available from Santa & Cole, now incorporates LED technology. The fitting’s body is extruded recycled aluminium with anodised finish. Columns are grey-painted hot-galvanized steel or anodised aluminium and can support several fittings.

IGuzzini’s UFO is an urban streetlight designed to resemble a luminous leaf, with soft glare-free light distribution and reduced light pollution. The square geometry of the panels, available in large or small sizes, provides flexibility by allowing them to be combined with different arm configurations, on one or both sides of the pole. LED sources along the profile of the lamp body provide soft, homogenous lighting for the urban version. The street lighting version, with intelligent electronic programming, features three types of high-performance symmetric and asymmetric optics.

Also by IGuzzini, the Lun Up is a direct light luminaire that can be recessed into the ground, floor or wall for use with monochromatic LED power and signalling RGB light sources. Because of its small size, it almost disappears into the landscape by day. Its quadrant shape can be used to form semicircles, full circles, three-quarter circles and sinuous free shapes. Naturally, it is a good choice for lighting circular surfaces.


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