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Plus ça change

One New Change is a contemporary mixed development located to the immediate east of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Philip Rose of Speirs + Major explains to Amanda Allen how they went about lighting a space in the shadow of such an iconic building

Working with modern architecture in a traditional setting is always going to be a challenge. Opinion on the approach will be varied and vocal but when Prince Charles wades in with his opinion, and unsuccessfully tries to alter the course of the project, one would assume those involved have a point to prove from there onwards.

One New Change is one such building. Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, in conjunction with Sidell Gibson, the development stands eight stories high comprising of retail and office space, and a public roof terrace.

Appointed by Land Securities, the developers behind the project, London-based design team Speirs + Major were appointed to light the retail space, exterior and roof-top terrace.

The obvious point of contention for the development is its proximity to St. Paul’s but as Philip Rose, design associate with Speirs + Major explains, ‘the powers that be’ at the cathedral were on board with the project from the very beginning. “The Surveyor to the Fabric of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Martin Stancliffe, was involved in the process from the beginning. We had many discussions with them and presented our lighting concepts to them and they were very supportive. Their main concern was what the building would look like, both by day and by night, and what the impact of the lighting would be, and we worked with them on that,” says Philip.

Sell, sell, sell

Enticing shoppers into the space was an integral part of the project, so Philip looked closely at the threshold of the entrances to the arcade. “We wanted to make them bright and airy as you go into the space so we lit them using recessed ceramic metal halide downlights supplied by DAL. This was to catch the attention of shoppers and also to help the eye adapt coming from daylight into an internal space.”

Having worked with both architects in developing the lighting concept, Philip had a thorough understanding of the architecture and the mood and ambience that the architects wanted for the space. It was also important to ensure that when the design was altered the lighting could change in accordance. “We had to work quite closely with the architects because we needed to be completely up to speed on the finishes that they were using and if theywere changing. They used finishes with dark colours and materials with a polished and reflective nature so we had to be kept informed on all of these finishes to get the lighting right,” says Philip.

Flexible fluorescents

The design team felt that the best approach for the space was a solution that could change throughout the day and respond to both day and night-time conditions.

The retail space lies on either side of the building’s arcade which is lit using linear fluorescent and ceramic metal halide downlighting, supplied by DAL, in an alternating layout. “There is a rhythm of a fluorescent and then a downlight and then a fluorescent and so on,” says Philip. “The concept was that in the evening the fluorescent would be slowly dimmed down until they would be turned off completely. Then the quality of the metal halide would be more enhanced.”

According to Philip, because the building is glazed, the external appearance was paramount, therefore they had to give greater consideration to the internal lighting. The external lighting was provided by the lighting on the roof terrace and from the City of London street lighting which is mounted onto the building. “We entered into a consultation process with the City of London quite early on in the project to agree an approach and locations and light levels for the luminaires. Once the proposals were approved, the project supplied and installed the infrastructure and bracketry, and the City of London installed the fixtures. We used the City of London-developed Londinium fittings supplied by Urbis and the Comsopolis lamp.”

Other external lighting includes canopy-mounted fluorescent fixtures by EncapSulite that light the footpath around the façade.

Too bright?

The pressure to overlight a space is often a factor in lighting retail spaces and, according to Philip, finding the balance between the needs of the retailer and your own expertise is the key. “The retailer is king because that’s the fundamental purpose of the space. You are there to provide a background and what you shouldn’t do is try to be as dominant as the retailers. The actual ambient lighting of the arcade needed to be subservient to the lighting of the individual retail spaces.”

With the approach taken, where the fluorescent lighting is dimmed as the day grows darker, Philip believes that the retail space is enhanced by the individual shop windows. “The windows themselves take people through the space and that was always part of our concept. It was also the evening condition that we had to consider more, as the retail units become more inviting as the ambient lighting is reduced.” says Philip.

Raising the roof

The designers were able to take a similarly subdued approach to the lighting on the public roof terrace – a unique element of the development that offers views of St. Paul’s. “The concept was to provide another view out across the city and offer a completely new experience of St. Paul’s, with a view that most people don’t get to see.”

On the terrace, lighting has been integrated into the base of the façade on the rooftop to give definition to the edge of the terrace. In addition, lighting from Insta and LEC Lyon has been incorporated into the handrails and steps to guide people around the terrace.

According to Philip, the approach taken to lighting the terrace was to light it as a landscape using lots of low-level sources. “We have incorporated low level fluorescent lighting by EncapSulite and by keeping the light sources below the eye level it will help to promote views out across the city and of St. Paul’s – the vision of St. Paul’s is the most important thing here and it was never something the project wanted to compete with,” says Philip.

Prince Charles’s reservations to one side, perhaps the modern and the traditional can coexist peacefully after all.

PROJECT DETAILS

PROJECT ONE NEW CHANGE

LIGHTING DESIGNERS SPEIRS + MAJOR

DEVELOPER LAND SECURITIES

ARCHITECTURE JEAN NOUVEL; SIDELL GIBSON

SUPPLIERS ACDC LIGHTING SOLUTIONS; BEGA; DAL; ENCAPSULITE; ERCO; INSTA; LEC LYON; MIKE STOANE LIGHTING; SILL; THORN

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