The third of the AJ/iGuzzini Place: Light First proposals resurrects Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens as a modern-day place for promenading
‘Promenading Light’ is a lighting proposal for Erect Architecture’s ‘Vauxhall Missing Link - Promenade of Curiosities’ scheme, a public realm project connecting London’s Battersea Nine Elms development to the South Bank.
The promenade is inspired by curiosities collector John Tradescant and the original Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens of the mid-17th to the mid-19th century, the famous place of amusement where high and low life went to see and be seen. The Promenade of Curiosities creates a more pedestrian- and cycle-friendly public realm in which locals and visitors can collect experiences of curiosities as they move through the site. Our proposal seeks to revivify Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens as a modern-day place for amusement and magic, promenading and socialising.
Some accounts attribute the decline of the original pleasure gardens to the arrival of electric lighting, when the magic created by hundreds of oil lamps illuminating trees and bushes disappeared.
We propose a sculptural ‘ribbon’ of light and dark above the park, which responds to the people below by illuminating their promenade and drawing attention to pockets of activity within the park.
Varying density, brightness and speed of illumination define different character areas around the ribbon, with a nod to the original features of the pleasure garden walks - the Dark Walk, Lovers’ Walk and Grand Walk.
Triggered by people’s activities, the lighting creates a perpetually changing atmosphere - a curious, ephemeral spectacle of wonder and delight, apparently hovering in the air like the pleasure gardens’ famous tightrope walker, Madame Saqui.
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Lighting designer’s notes by Colin Ball, associate lighting designer, BDP
Erect Architecture’s proposal seeks to recreate an image of London that has been lost over the past few decades of ‘over-engineering’ our night-time environment. This is a fairly recent phenomenon - don’t forget the Greenwich Observatory was still in operation until 1957.
Our proposal is to use readily available, addressable LED screen technologies from stage shows that can treat each ‘oil lamp’ as an individual pixel. This system can be suspended from an elegant catenary cable system with slim matt black columns positioned within the tree groups. All junction boxes, cabling and connections can then be hidden within the column infrastructure.
For years I have studied and written about JAM Whistler’s Nocturnes and Gustave Doré’s London etchings because they show a time when London was transformed; when the night-time economy became an important part of city life. Erect’s proposal brings that early ‘Nocturne’ condition back.
London still has some gems of historic, listed gas-lit streets in operation. These function perfectly well at light levels as low as 1.5Lux, one-tenth of current recommendations. The low-level of warm flickering light can be responsive to people and provide lighting levels at least as high as the gas-lit streets currently in use.
iGuzzini case study: Memorial Park, San Giuliano di Puglia, Italy
On 31 October 2002 an earthquake measuring 5.4 on the Richter scale struck the small town of San Giuliano di Puglia in southern Italy. The Jovine elementary school collapsed and 29 people perished, 26 of whom were children.
Designed by architect Santo Marra, the common theme of this memorial park is the journey of life, the moment of tragedy and the path of mourning.
iGuzzini designed a bespoke LED solution that is delicate and flexible, representing human frailty. This is in stark contrast to the immovable concrete floor that represents the force of nature. The park, which illuminates at night, is a permanent memorial and these rows of light are broken up by illuminated discs, recessed into the ground, each representing a fallen soul.