Lighting to good effect

Published:  09 April, 2005

Plantation Place
A highlight of both the design and lighting in the entrance hall of One Plantation Place are closely spaced glass fins rising four storeys above the atrium to direct both natural and artificial atrium into the offices behind.

Dramatic lighting immediately attracts attention. Modern and imaginative techniques play a key role in creating stimulating environments in workplaces — as the latest Lighting Design Awards demonstrate.

In providing examples of both imagination and excellence in lighting, the long-established Lighting Design Awards are a supreme example. They embrace a huge number of categories, from street lighting and other external lighting, to effects lighting and lighting for the workplace.

Individual solutions

A characteristic of all entries is that they are very much individual solutions — designed and engineered for the particular project. The awards were presented in London last month.

Of particular interest to the building-services sector is the category sponsored by Wila covering workplace lighting. The three short-listed projects were the BBC Mailbox Studios in Birmingham, Plantation Place in the City of London and the Royal Mail Innovation Lab in Rugby.

Plantation Place is one of the latest developments in the City of London and comprises a pair of spectacular glazed buildings crowded into a 1 ha plot. The development includes offices, shops, bars and restaurants.

Natural lighting

The entrance hall to the larger building leads up to a 43 m-high atrium, around which office accommodation is planned. The atrium space is stepped towards the south on the upper levels to take advantage of the enhanced natural lighting at the southern aspect, bringing daylight and sunlight deep into the lower level of the atrium.

Full-height ‘crushed-glass’ fins line the atrium. They consist of triple-layered glass with a fractured middle pane, designed to reflect and refract available light.

Lighting designer Arup Associates also specified Guzzini Le Perroquet globe projectors to frame each fin with light from below. To enable these projectors to also illuminate the space below, the control gear has been taken out and moved into the floor void of the adjacent offices. This left enough space to install a 70 W Pixel Plus fitting in the base for practical lighting.

Arup also specified Zumtobel Staff LED striplights. They are fitted to a pair of 600 mm-wide columns in the atrium, visually ‘splitting the bulky structures with light and reducing their apparent width’.

Showcase

Replacing the old BBC Pebble Mills studios and offices in Birmingham, the BBC Mailbox opens up the space to the licence payer so that BBC Birmingham can become a showcase for BBC creativity. The architect was BDP, and BDP Lighting was responsible for the lighting.

In response to the challenges of designing a modern interactive office environment and opening up the space to the licence payer, the design solution was to create a dramatic 4-storey entrance space at the heart of the plan, lining the lower-level retail entrance with the upper-level offices.

From the BBC ‘shop front’ the visitor can see into the radio studios, the editing suites, the drama studio and TV studio stacked on one side of the entrance. On the other side at the upper level, the space flows into the open-plan offices.

The office accommodation is organised into two wings of open-plan space defined by suspended mezzanine floors or gondolas. These gondolas are conceived as slim, lightweight floors that split the floor plate into two to provide sufficient space for the large number of staff and act a flexible service spines delivering fresh air, power and data cabling.

The lighting is an integral part of the concept and is designed to be simple but effective. The main lighting suppliers were Fagerhult, Wila and Concord. The low ceiling heights created by the insertion of the gondolas created some very tight spaces, and a custom recessed solution was designed to overcome the space issues. In the double-height space, an integrated direct/indirect solution is used.

Centre of creativity

And so to the winner of the workplace-lighting category of the Lighting Design Awards — the Royal Mail Innovation Lab at Rugby. It is the centre of creativity for the Royal Mail Group. where internal and external groups work on creative problem solving, generating ideas and business planning. Design manager Philip Tovay of the Innovation Lab explains, ‘The environment makes a huge difference to unlocking potential and putting people in the right mental space. The lighting within the space adds to the exciting experience.’

The concept was started as a demonstration zone for future technologies housed in two Portakabins at the management centre in Rugby. It has been moved to a purpose-built space and transformed into a leading-edge working environment for lateral thinking and creativity.

Following investigation and interviews, the space is divided as follows: research zone; play room; project room; puzzle room; relax zone; ‘make it real’ and chill area. Each zone enables people in it to control the environment — light, sound, video, presentations etc.

A diverse range of lighting is used, including LED parcans in the main rooms and a selection of spots, fibre-optic and moving-head lamps — all of which add to the atmosphere to create a space unlike any other.

Feedback has proved that the Innovation Lab has achieved its major objective of changing the way people think within Royal Mail and also changed the perception of Royal Mail itself — all within a very limited budget and challenging timescales.



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