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Place: Light First – Night Sky by AY Architects

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The first of the AJ/iGuzzini Place: Light First proposals, Night Sky, connects Kentish Town with Kenwood House in Hampstead via a ‘dark green’ corridor

‘Megacities’ like London are so lit-up they prevent us from experiencing the sky and disconnect us from the passage of day and night, the rhythm of the cosmos, moon phases and the stars. Energy consumption and light pollution have become extreme in the name of modern comfort and a distorted concept of safety. Less-lit cities are not only safe, but calmer, sensual and more sustainable.

London could reclaim the night sky by using the smallest amount of light where and when necessary. Smart urban lighting gives us the opportunity to sensor surrounding light sources and adjust luminosity levels to achieve darker night environments. On a clear, full moon-lit night, or next to heavy vehicle traffic, lights would dim down; when necessary, they would dim up.

Our drawing focuses on Kentish Town, named after the combination of ‘ken’ (Celtic for ‘green’) and ditch (referring to the river Fleet). We suggest reconnecting Ken-ditch with Ken-wood through a new dark green corridor that allows night and biodiversity to thrive.

Handrail detail

Handrail detail

Lighting would be interactive, low output and powered by solar or kinetic energy (train or wind). A sunset and moon-viewing square is proposed to cover the railway at Kentish Town. The terraced platform marks the beginning of a path leading to Parliament Hill, Hampstead Ponds and Kenwood House. The first part is illuminated by a sequence of touch-sensitive handrails. Touch activates sensors and colourfully illuminates the handrail 10m ahead the pedestrian, gradually switching off behind. Approaching the park, hidden lines of reactive LED lighting are embedded in the ground. The light effect is inconspicuous and adjustable to weather change and atmospheric luminosity, dimming on and off as you make your journey.


Lighting designer’s notes by Robert Honeywill, director, Maurice Brill Lighting Design

Early collaboration between architect and lighting designer has measurable benefits, in particular, supporting and realising the architect’s narrative before too much of the design is set in stone.

AY’s proposal is for a three-stage lighting journey for the public to experience. The viewing terrace is envisaged as a dark space surrounded by interactive light columns and step lights, enabling the surround to be kept dark so that the night sky is revealed. Step lighting will be kept permanently on at very low levels and can be touch-controlled with simple on-board switching by the public.

The second part of the journey, leading to Parliament Hill, will be illuminated only by an interactive handrail comprising a permanently lit (low power and output) outer marker that can only be seen from the railway side of the path. The handrail will be touch-sensitive and light the way for pedestrians with tiny built-in LED lamps at 10m intervals.

The final part of the journey, up Parliament Hill and through the park towards Kenwood House, will be dark, relying predominantly on the overall brightness of the local area and, where possible, moonlight (0.27-1.0 lux on a clear night), to light the way.

Photoluminescent materials scattered in strategic locations along the path or on posts, signage or gravel, will create an ‘Avatar’-like ambience with 10 hours’ glow time and built-in controls to reduce energy consumption. Meanwhile, Kenwood House would be illuminated only with touches of light to specific architectural features, so it does not appear too bright and remains a modest beacon.

iGuzzini case study: Villa Colloredo Mels, Recanati, Italy


The park at Villa Colloredo Mels lies at the heart of Recanati in Italy. Croatian lighting designer Dean Skira was tasked with providing the park with a distinct night time feel using iGuzzini’s LED range. Skira used a selection of projectors and linear recessed luminaires for the majority of the practical lighting. These were coupled with clever use of innovative products like Lun-Up and Typha. Lun-Up is an outdoor ground recessed product that has been termed a ‘smile of light’.

RGB versions of the product were used for the children’s play area while the white light versions were used at the base of trees and pots to enhance their natural colour.

Typha is a plant-like flexible luminaire. Available in variable-length transparent polycarbonate tubes with satin-finished tops, each unit has a single LED at the base. The light from the source highlights the deliberate imperfections on the polycarbonate tube to provide a unique lit effect.

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