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Buddha Bar, Knightsbridge, London, UK

Issue 72 April / May 2013 : Retail : Restaurant


Buddha Bar in Paris has long been regarded as a fashionable hangout. Now a lighting design from Into is helping the bar’s new London incarnation stand out amid a saturated scene.

Buddha Bar has continued to grow as a brand since businessman and bon vivant, Raymond Visan, founded the gilt watering hole in Paris in 1996. Located in the exclusive 8th arrondissement, the original Buddha Bar is found on the chic Ru du Faubourg Saint-Honore and still attracts a particularly fashionable crowd of musos, who flock to Buddha to hear the bar’s unique soundtrack of carefully picked tracks from the Orient, rare tracks picked by some of the best DJs in the world.

The Buddha Bar concept was created to be more like a lifestyle than a one-off experience. A hedonistic mix of design, food, music and light, produced in an environment that radiates a colonial, baroque and East-meets-West style, the look and feel inspired by Visan’s natural wanderlust and his visits to old Asian temples and the estates of Portuguese conquistadors.

The reach of the brand has expanded in recent years and today Buddha Bar can be found in fashionable hotspots around the globe, from Monte Carlo, to Dubai to Jakarta. The London incarnation, which opened in late 2012 in Knightsbridge, hosted the pre-Brit Awards party in February, and shows every sign of keeping up the hedonistic tradition inaugurated by its elder brothers.

Into were appointed as lighting consultants to realise the client’s vision for a theatrical, dynamic and playful lighting scheme. The venue is comprised of a reception area, two floors of restaurants, a bar area and several private dining areas. The lighting was to evolve throughout the day and night to enhance the function of each space whilst creating a ‘wow’ factor from initial arrival onwards.

The purpose of the lighting design was to enhance the plush, high quality material and finishes of the interiors designed by Tibbatts Abel, along with creatively illuminating large scale bespoke installations designed specifically for the venue. One being a large Buddha moulded from mesh metal by artist David Begbie and another being two 6.5 metre crystal dragons within each of the stair voids.

All elements of the lighting scheme needed to be subtlety and carefully controlled to ensure an exclusive and intimate feel to the venue was maintained. The lighting needed to provide flexibility to change the illumination depending on the function within each of the spaces.

On entering the venue the reception area is located within a double height space with its main feature being a bespoke bamboo ceiling forming the logo of the venue. To create visual impact and drama as soon as you enter the venue this was illuminated using RGBW LED projectors mounted on drop rods with adjustable low glare halogen spotlights, again rod mounted, providing the key accent illumination to the reception desk and circulation area.

Concealed warm white LED tape was used within the wall joinery to highlight the products on display, while warm white low glare LED inground uplights illuminate the large feature archway that leads into the main restaurant area.

To meet the theatrical lighting brief and to provide the main accent lighting within the restaurant, low glare adjustable spotlights on a suspended track system focus tight pools of light onto tables avoiding unnecessary lighting of the floor space. The track system allows flexibility if the table layouts were to be altered.

These spotlights use low voltage halogen dichroic IRC lamps chosen for their colour rendering properties whilst being able to be dimmed to a very low level. All display lighting was specified in black so as to lose the fixtures against the black ceiling.

The bar, which runs the expanse of one side of the restaurant, is illuminated with low glare RGB inground fittings in order to wash the bar front, while RGB LED tape is concealed within the glass shelving details along the back bar. Warm white LED tape is also located within the illuminated bottle step, while feature glass and birdcage pendants have been added to the area to help bring the lighting level down and create a more intimate feel.

Surface mounted RGBW projectors have been utilised to highlight key vertical elements such as the voiles within the windows and the large concrete wall to the stairs. Warm white LED inground uplights have also been used to highlight the feature mirror clad columns dotted around the venue to helping to create a layered lighting scheme.

The stairs leading down to the basement have been integrally illuminated using an IP rated warm white LED tape backlighting the decorative fret cut metal work with an opal acrylic panel. At the foot of the stairs the mesh metal Buddha is suspended in front of a glass screen highlighted with adjustable halogen spotlights from varying directions, which creates an interesting and playful shadowing on the screen leading into the space. Within the two voids on either side of the stairs two huge bespoke crystal dragons are suspended. These are illuminated using high-powered RGBW LED projectors located within the base of the structure with bespoke louvers to prevent glare.

The general accent illumination within the basement is provided by a combination of recessed low glare adjustable downlights located in a suspended cable tray and surface mounted adjustable spotlights using low voltage halogen dichroic IRC lamps. Key vertical surfaces have also been highlighted with shafts of light to express the textures and finishes of the surfaces.

Concealed RGB tape is located behind the feature concrete walls within each of the booths with decorative feature wall lights providing ambient illumination and intimacy.

The PDR space is again illuminated with adjustable low glare recessed downlights to allow flexibility with warm white LED tape backlighting feature glass panels within the wooden ceiling design and also located behind the feature mirror detail on the wall.

All lighting within the building is on a Mode Evolution system to allow the venue to change and evolve throughout the day and night. The general lighting is controlled via a standard button plate with all RGB LED lighting DMX controlled with an LCD plate to allow the manager to select different colours for the different RGB elements. This allows the venue to be illuminated in a variety of ways depending on the function required on any given day.


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