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3DReid and Harry Dobbs shortlisted in Oxford Street Lights contest

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3DReid and Harry Dobbs Design are the only architects shortlisted in the RIBA’s competition to reimagine the Christmas lights display on Oxford Street in London’s West End

The practices are working with separate teams on the four-strong shortlist announced yesterday (17 April) for the prestigious commission.

Rivals include lighting designers from Portugal and a German and Austrian collaboration.

Open to teams of architects and lighting designers, the competition sought ‘inspiring and innovative’ proposals for the annual display of lights and colours, seen by an estimated 40 million visitors to the area. More than 40 entries were submitted.

The project is backed by New West End Company, Transport for London, and Westminster City Council. It aims to reimagine the festive decorations which first lit up the 1.9km-long street in 1959. The grand unveiling of the completed winning scheme will coincide with the opening of Crossrail in December.

New West End Company chief executive Jace Tyrrell said: ‘Oxford Street’s Illuminations are synonymous with Christmas in London, launching the festive season and drawing crowds from across the globe to the West End.

‘The shortlisted entries are all outstanding, creating opportunities for people to interact with the installations in a new and innovative ways that have not been seen on Oxford Street before. Selecting the shortlist was incredibly difficult, but looking at the four potential winning designs, it’s certain the lights this year will be spectacular, giving all our visitors the opportunity to experience a special festive moment here on Oxford Street.’

Chris Wilkinson, director of WilkinsonEyre and RIBA adviser to the contest said: ‘Oxford Street’s Christmas lights are world-renowned, and this year a designer from this incredible shortlist will deliver an installation that eclipses anything that’s come before.

‘The standard of entry has been wonderful and selecting a shortlist was extremely hard, but these four entries stood out in terms of their quality, and the inspiring stories that underpinned their design concepts. I’m really excited for the final stage of the competition from this shortlist, and, whoever wins, I have no doubt there will be an amazing Christmas spectacle for visitors to Oxford Street to enjoy this Winter.’

Oxford Street is a major thoroughfare connecting Marble Arch and Tottenham Court Road. Originally a residential address, it became a major shopping centre in the late 19th century and is today home to many flagship retail premises and department stores.

The lights are typically switched on in mid to late November and remain in place until 6 January. Celebrities invited to throw the switch have included Bob Geldof, Linford Christie and the Spice Girls.

The four shortlisted teams will receive £3,000 each to further develop their designs and attend interviews. Judges include Tyrrell, Wilkinson, Westminster City Council deputy leader Robert Davis, London’s deputy mayor for culture and creative industries Justine Simons, and fashion accessories designer Anya Hindmarch for the Royal Academy Development Trust.

The shortlist

Gia Equation with Peter Fink Studio, Harry Dobbs Design & Eckersley O’Callaghan, London

Gia Equation with Peter Fink Studio, Harry Dobbs Design & Eckersley O’Callaghan, London

Gia Equation with Peter Fink Studio, Harry Dobbs Design & Eckersley O’Callaghan, London

KaleidoSCAPE is an immersive interactive experience of light and colour inspired by Aurora Borealis, the fragile spectrum of colours on the surfaces of bubbles and the light refraction through prisms.

Castros SA, Portugal

Castros S.A, Portugal

Castros S.A, Portugal

This entry, entitled ‘The Polar Christmas’ will create a welcoming, tender Christmas display by combining inspiring shapes and colours, with one of Christmas’s most popular icons, the reindeer. The Polar Christmas is inspired by a magical tale created by the designer which describes how a famous jeweller was reminded of the preciousness of family by an encounter with a majestic reindeer on a dangerous polar expedition.

3DReid, London

3DReid, London

3DReid, London

The designers’ North Pole-inspired design incorporates a ribbon geometry that never repeats and 500,000 LED lights that will allow flexibility for the lights to smoothly curve around the street through a ‘ribbon and star’ field.

D. Herr Meier Licht, Germany & MK Illumination, Austria

D. Herr Meier Licht, Germany & MK Illumination, Austria

D. Herr Meier Licht, Germany & MK Illumination, Austria

Taking inspiration from flocks of birds in the sky ‘The Swarm’ will use a 3D calibration to allow every light to follow its own behaviour. The simulation will last 24 hours and will change in colour.

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