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Stirling 2001 - the lighting architects

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Stirling 2001

Jonathan Speirs and Mark Major, Speirs and Major

The lighting designers for Magna were almost overawed by the original dark and derelict void with blades of sunlight glinting through the roof.

Mark Major (above right), director of Speirs and Major, says few projects bear out the importance of lighting as well as Magna. 'The black-box design relies so heavily on the interpretation of lighting for its drama and functionality.'

Major, who trained in architecture at Edinburgh University, says such a lighting project could only be developed in close collaboration with the architect and the exhibition designer.

'There is no architecture without lighting, but no light without architecture, ' he says. 'We had to work very closely together and Magna was not easy because we were working within an existing building and with such a challenging form.Nevertheless the prize very much goes to Wilkinson Eyre. It was important to be involved in a Stirling Prize-winning project. We have worked on other award winners but perhaps not as prestigious as this one.'

Speirs and Major relied on a lighting scheme that was 'simple and restrained' and worked with David Hearsey Associates on the exhibition.

Red light-emitting diode beacons and blue-glass halide lamps picked up gantries and exhibits while pavilions were outlined in neon strips. The designers were careful to enhance the atmosphere by retaining the dramatic darkness.

Major says it was crucial to capture the sense of drama of the former Templeborough steelworks, which 50 years ago used to boast a workforce of 10,000: 'Our role was like that for the Millennium Dome and Bluewater. We were responsible for the overview to ensure the overall space tied in with small exhibition spaces.

Magna joins that hall of fame and it is always good having a project of that kind in your portfolio.'

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