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Place: Light First – #Lightbus by Architecture 00

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The second entry in the AJ/iGuzzini Place: Light First lighting challenge is a proposal for the top deck of London’s New Routemaster buses

‘The whole city is your jewellery-box; a million twinkling yellow street lights. Reach out and take what you want’ (Pulp)

‘Bus interiors had grown increasingly chaotic with their […] over-bright strip lighting’ (Thomas Heatherwick, from his notes on Heatherwick Studio’s design for the New Bus for London for TfL)

Entitled #lightbus, Architecture 00’s project for Place: Light First transforms the London bus network into a series of architectural tours of the capital by dimming the lights on the top decks of London’s New Routemaster buses during daily slots at dawn and dusk.

Our proposal effectively ‘de-lights’ the bus, reducing internal glare and reflections and allowing the architecture of London to come into focus. The experience of travelling through London in the morning and evening thus becomes a destination in itself.

Lightbus lighting concept sketch - blue

It is a lighting scheme experienced in motion across the whole city, as a gentler start to the day or softer transition to the evening. In an urban environment that is often light-polluted, this subtle shift re‑frames how we view the architecture and our movement through the city: passing iconic city landmarks such as St Paul’s, or crossing the river, and capturing wider vistas across central London.

Dynamic control reduces lighting levels between stops; warm LEDs in the floor and soffit dim when the bus is in motion and raise when approaching stops, allowing safe passage to the exit. The lower deck remains illuminated throughout for those with visual impairments, accessibility requirements and those who focus on more immediate things.

Twitterview takes place at 1pm on 30 July #PlaceLightFirst #LightFirst


Lighting designer’s notes by Hiroto Toyoda, senior designer, Speirs + Major

From the outset I found Architecture 00’s proposal intriguing and delightful. The challenging relationship between light and glass is something that often has to be explored on projects. Glass, employed to promote transparency by day, has the opposite effect after dark, when the reflection of the bright interior becomes highly visible and the glass is transformed into a ‘mirror’. With the increasing prevalence of glass in buildings, this is a common issue with many architectural schemes, the most famous example perhaps being Philip Johnson’s Glass House (1949) at New Canaan, Connecticut.

In a manner similar to the way in which Richard Kelly - often considered to be the pioneer of architectural lighting design - solved the problem at the Glass House, we discussed how luminance values beyond the glass could be made higher than that of the interior of the bus while ensuring this did not compromise passengers’ safety. To avoid glare and reflection, we needed to restrict the luminance on horizontal surfaces and below eye level, so considered the possibility of introducing concealed under-seat lighting and discreet, floor-recessed marker lights using energy-efficient LED sources.

#lightbus was a fantastic project to be a part of, not only from a personal perspective (I am a regular user of the New Routemasters), but also as a designer working with light. It was a powerful reminder of the fast-evolving responsibilities of a lighting designer. Our role is no longer just to light buildings and spaces, but also to analyse, consider and ‘de-light’ existing schemes in our cities that are, quite simply, overlit.

iGuzzini case study: The Kelpies, Helix Park, Falkirk

The Kelpies

Andy Scott’s 30m-high sculptures - named The Kelpies after the mythical sea creatures - form the centrepiece of the new Helix Park project in Falkirk. The sculptures are inspired by the heavy horses that toiled along the length and breadth of Britain’s canals, pulling barges during the industrial revolution.

Lightfolio, the lighting designers appointed to the project, selected iGuzzini for a number of the fittings across the visitor hub area and the exterior illumination of the sculptures. The surrounding areas are illuminated by a Wow saddle fitting that offered excellent photometric performance as well as being reminiscent of the steel skin plates that clad the sculptures. Bollards from the iWay range were selected to line the pedestrian routes as their concealed light source and carefully controlled light distribution were perfect for this near-dark sky area.

The main concourse at the hub is illuminated by MaxiWoody floodlights mounted on folding 18m columns. The fittings use both white light and LED colour change, synchronised with the internal lighting of the sculptures to increase dramatic effect.

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