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Athletes Village, Olympic Park, London, UK

Issue 68 Aug / Sep 2012 : Architecture : Streetlight


The Athletes Village forms an essential element in any Olympic event. Speirs + Major helped provide both competitors and future residents with a safe and sustainable space.

The Athletes Village is a mixed-use development, predominantly comprised of residential buildings, as well as commercial, transport, retail and educational facilities that forms part of the wider Stratford City Development.

Speirs + Major’s involvement began with an appointment by Lend Lease in 2009 to work on a high level masterplan for the wider area with a subsequent appointment by the Olympic Delivery Authority to provide the public realm lighting design for the public realm for Zones 3-6 – the Athletes Village.

The public lighting design has been specifically developed for use in legacy mode after the Games but have been used, with the possible addition of overlay lighting, as the temporary accommodation for the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympic.

Speirs + Major initially worked with masterplanners to develop a shared vision for the experience of the area after dark. This shared concept was based on an urban design hierarchy that reinforces the distinction of the urban and landscape elements within the public realm, and promotes way-finding. Taking this forward they focused on how light could be used to develop a distinctive character for each of the different types of routes and spaces, providing strong visual cues for intuitive way-finding.
The approach centres on visually apparent changes to the way light is applied to the routes and spaces. This suggests both their purpose and allows users to make decisions about their route based on the levels of brightness and uniformity they are comfortable with. Lighting to different route types is scaled in terms of the intensity of the light as well as the height and the perceived size of the equipment. Specific decorative effects are used to highlight social areas. Overlaid on this, strong visual landmarks are created in key locations to link spaces together so that pedestrians can easily make sense of the space within the context of the wider area. A consistent quality of light in terms of colour rendering and temperature, alongside a deliberately limited palette of equipment brings cohesion to the scheme and ensures an overall pleasant environment.

Sustainability is at the core of the design. The lighting class to which the scheme has been designed needed to be carefully considered both with respect to the surrounding urban fabric and the adjoining Wetlands and Olympic Park, which in Legacy will be a largely dark landscape. With safety and security paramount, Speirs + Major worked on providing sight lines,  illuminating selected vertical surfaces to improve the perception of brightness and to aid way-finding, as well as a consistent approach to uniformity. All of these measures enabled a Lighting Class of S2 to be approved, with an average maintained illuminance of 10 lux.
Additionally, certain areas are deliberately not lit. These include the Waterglades as well as two other green spaces, Victory Park and Mirabelle Gardens. Similarly, no feature lighting is provided to the water bodies within the site, instead these are left to act as mirrors, indirectly reflecting lighting from within the scheme. All of these areas feature well-lit perimeter routes, with visibility through the green spaces to the adjoining routes, promoting the idea of the public using these as a preference.

As well as safety and security there are many other benefits of this strategy including reduced energy consumption, limiting impacts on bio-diversity - particularly in the wetland areas - and the preservation of natural beauty by avoiding a forest of light columns across the green spaces.

Crucially, from a design perspective it is the context of darkness that allows for a simple, subtle and atmospheric solution in which the basic amenity lighting is designed to also create the required distinct character rather than imposing itself as a municipal layer.

The public realm to the Athletes Village is made up of three distinct route types, as well as additional feature lighting to the tree canopies, and to hard and soft landscape structures in certain areas. There are primary routes through the main public realm areas, secondary routes through the more residential areas and tertiary routes through the soft landscape. The lighting for each type of route was addressed differently.
The primary routes are the key pedestrian connections around the perimeters that largely follow the retail routes with the highest footfall. These are consistently illuminated using warm white, 3000K, LEDs with a relatively high level of uniformity to promote the highest perception of safety and encourage their use after dark. Luminaires are mounted on 6m high columns that are designed to also incorporate signage, banners (for Games Mode) and CCTV, and aligned with tree planting to reduce visual clutter.

Secondary routes are lit by residential ‘lantern’ style luminaires mounted on 4m columns to lend human scale. Cosmopolis metal halide lamps are used, which have a warmer colour temperature, 2800K, than the LEDs used on the primary routes.  This creates a clear visual differentiation between the public and the more private routes with a more domestic atmosphere.

The tertiary routes that cut through the soft landscaped areas of Portlands, Glade Walk and Fortune’s Walk have been given a less uniform, more decorative treatment. Low-level bollards are used to create visual ‘stepping stones’ that mark out the paths. From above, high level multi-head spotlights on 10m columns shine through the tree canopies casting decorative shadows and patterns and illuminating the base of the tree canopies, helping to visually tie spaces together. The light is cast just over the path boundary to lift the visual perception of brightness and increase the feeling of security. The lighting is deliberately less bright and more atmospheric, although primary routes are visible at the perimeter, offering a perceptibly brighter alternative and allowing other users of the area to be seen.

The topography of the site contains many peaks and valleys that create visual interest. These have been marked out within the landscape design with meeting and seating places, and locations for public art. They also act as natural orientation points.

Bench seating is cut into a raised area of landscape into the area known as The Belvedere. This is accentuated with light on the vertical edge of its curved base, making it visible from the opposite landscape peak of Stratford Square.

Feature downlighting through the canopy of the tree cluster groups on the crest of the mound behind the bench draws attention to the landscape peak and provides both a decorative framing effect when looking towards the bench from Portlands, Glade Walk and Victory Parade, as well as providing additional functional lighting around the bench to help it feel secure.

Ulysses Place serves as a multifunctional public square and entrance space to the Chobham Academy building, which will be used in the future for markets and as a gathering space. The perimeter is evenly illuminated as per all primary routes within the Village. Dense tree groups are scattered around the edges of the square, within which multi-head spotlighting columns are concealed, to cast foliage shadows onto the ground plane and to highlight the tree canopies. Light levels decrease towards the centre of the square, providing the context for feature lighting to an undulating curved feature wall, with engraved poetry artwork. Ground recessed uplights are arranged to highlight the ‘troughs’ of the wall undulations, allowing the ‘peaks’ to appear darker, accentuating the curving form of the bench.

Ribbons Walk is a route between two residential plots, where planting at the top and bottom of the mesh facade is creating a green wall. Recessed uplights are used to highlight the wall, both for decorative effect, as well as to increase the perception of brightness along the route, which is wider than many of the other residential pedestrian routes.

The bulk of the lighting to the Athletes Village was selected from a commonly procured palette of equipment. The use of LED for the primary routes within the Athlete’s Village was an ODA site-wide decision for the Olympic Park as well as Athletes Village public realm and streetscape. For decorative effects a limited selection of metal halide, compact fluorescent and LED sources from other manufacturers was used to keep power consumption and maintenance to a minimum.

All route lighting within the Athletes Village public realm is automatically triggered by photocells to switch on at dusk and off at dawn, which corresponds with the Streetscape lighting control throughout the site. The decorative lighting is automatically triggered by astronomical timeclock to switch on 30 minutes prior to dusk and to switch off at a pre-set threshold time of 11pm.Electronic ballasts with factory pre-set dimming have been employed in all of the primary and secondary route column lighting, to automatically step down the light output to 75% in the middle of the night reducing unnecessary energy use when the routes are least likely to be in use. The ballasts are all DALI, to future-proof the scheme for possible Legacy interventions.

Athletes Village, Olympic Park, London, UK
Client: Olympic Delivery Authority / Lend Lease
Masterplan: Fletcher Priest
Landscape  Design: Vogt
Lighting Design: Speirs + Major (Mark Major, Clementine Rodgers, Chris Beasley, Ewan Parsons)
Engineers: Arup


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