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Fira de Barcelona Gran Via, Spain

Issue 51 Oct / Nov 2009 : Architectural : Expo

Lighting Design: I.C.O.N. Architect: TOYO ITO ARCHITECTS & ASSOCIATES

I.C.O.N. have created a lighting scheme for Toyo Ito Architects’ sea-inspired remastering of the Gran Via exhibition centre in Barcelona

Barcelona’s Gran Via exhibition centre has undergone a comprehensive redevelopment as part of an ongoing expansion plan to reinvent the site and its surrounding area.

Owners Fira 2000 put the project out to competition with Japanese firm Toyo Ito Architects & Associates selected as the successful candidate.
Taking their inspiration from the city’s costal location, Toyo Ito Architects have used organic, wavelike forms to create a master plan that not only expands, but reinvents the site, with a new entrance hall, extra pavilions, and improved visitor flow. Beyond this, it is hoped the new improved Gran Via will act as a hub around which landscaped spaces, new public transport, hotels and commercial complexes, will grow, helping to kick start socio-economic development in the area.

The task of creating a lighting scheme for the project was given to I.C.O.N., headed by principal lighting designer Akari-Lisa Ishii. With links to both Japan and Europe (the group has offices in Tokyo and Paris), I.C.O.N. were well suited to the project and indeed had already worked with Toyo Ito Architects on a previous, UK-based commission (although this is their first collaboration to reach completion).
I.C.O.N.’s proposal outlined a number of important factors that underpinned their lighting master plan. The scheme had to help create an identity for the Gran Via complex by using a coherent lighting methodology for the entire exhibition site. It had to be welcoming and friendly, using colour, intensity, brilliance and contrast in a ‘lighting hierarchy’ that would help visitors understand the space and use it effectively.

Reflecting the planners’ desire for the site to act as a hub for future development, the proposal also underlined the importance of adopting a scheme that would stand out as a world-class example of Barcelona’s nightscape.

On a practical level, I.C.O.N. has taken thematic elements from the architectural plan and carried them through into the lighting concept.
Toyo Ito Architects’ wave motif is clearly evident in the gentle curves of the entrance hall and the sinusoidal central corridor, dubbed the ‘central axis’, that weaves across the site, linking together all existing pavilions with the newly constructed sections of the exhibition complex. The positioning of lighting in these areas - which includes iGuzzini Sistema Easy fixtures and Sill 360 Indoor Projectors - echoes this wave theme by adopting an organic, undulating layout.

The wave theme was also applied to the building’s exterior. Bold, stylised wave shapes in brilliant white act as a second, outer layer to the façade of the site’s newer sections. To emphasise the purity of these shapes, I.C.O.N. chose to illuminate them with a clean white light – predominantly from ERCO downlights installed in the roof overhang above. Coloured lighting is only used in two areas of the scheme, and the exterior to Pavilion 1 is one of them. At night, a blue wash - again a reference to the sea - is thrown against the inner wall of the building, acting as a visual counterpoint to the white organic shapes that make up the outer layer. 

Blue is used again at Pavilion 8, where the central axis becomes a raised walkway, wrapping round the outside of the building. The underside of this walkway is illuminated with a subtle gradation of blue to white – recalling the way foam melts back into the sea.

Of course, this project was always about more than just creating a landmark building. Throughout its various design stages, everyone involved was acutely aware of Gran Via’s role as a catalyst for development in the wider community; it was important that the exhibition site feel like an integrated part of the environment. One way to achieve this was by extending the lighting master plan to include the plaza at the front of the complex, softly blending it into the surrounding area. During the hot Spanish summer nights, it’s usual for local residents to ramble around their neighbourhood. With this in mind, the lighting design aimed to create a pleasant and convivial ambiance using neutral white light with good colour rendering so that people would feel comfortable adopting the plaza as a kind of communal garden terrace.
The task was complicated by the regulations set down by the State of Catalonia. Strict rules on illumination levels and light uniformity in public spaces, as well as limits on light pollution (the products’ FHS ratios) called for some very creative thinking by I.C.O.N. The challenge was to satisfy these stipulations while avoiding the ‘forest of lamp posts’ effect that bedevils many public plazas. The risk of vandalism further limited the decorative lighting options available to Ishii and her team.

After many revisions to the plan (modification of the primary plan and simplifying fitting locations), technical research (lux level calculations, FHS verification and IK solidity research), and discussion with local government (the City of Barcelona and the City of Hospitalet), I.C.O.N. was able to produce a final scheme that best balanced functionality and aesthetics. As much as possible, I.C.O.N. incorporated floodlighting into the building’s façade, and on the plaza itself, slender Hestia streetlighting from Comatelec/Schreder are again placed in a ‘wavy’ layout across the space.

With this stage of the development complete, the Gran Via site now boasts a gross exhibition area of 200,000 m2 though further expansion to 240,000 m2 is already planned, with the construction of an auditorium and two new pavilions.

Project Details
Fira de Barcelona Gran Via, Barcelona
Client: Fira 2000
Lighting Design: I.C.O.N.
Architect: Toyo Ito Architects & Associates
Photographs: FIRA 2000 / Toyo Ito Architect & Associates
Lighting Specified: Schreder Group, Erco, Targetti, I Guzzini, We-ef, Bega, Simes, Sill, Zumtobel


FIRA Barcelona Pics: FIRA 2000 / Toyo Ito Architect & Associates
  • FIRA Barcelona
    Pics: FIRA 2000 / Toyo Ito Architect & Associates
  • FIRA Barcelona
    Pics: FIRA 2000 / Toyo Ito Architect & Associates
  • FIRA Barcelona
    Pics: FIRA 2000 / Toyo Ito Architect & Associates
  • FIRA Barcelona
    Pics: FIRA 2000 / Toyo Ito Architect & Associates
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