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Hilton Tower Bridge, London, England

Issue 39 Oct / Nov 2007 Retail : Hotel


When Hilton Hotels wanted a change of style for their Tower Bridge site, Lighting Design International was brought in to ring the changes. Chris Lewis, Principal Designer for the project, explains all.

Set against the backdrop of one of London’s best known historical landmarks, Hilton Tower Bridge is a modern and contemporary hotel with a striking interior. Interior Designers Jestico and Whiles brought in Lighting Design International to enhance the hotel’s boutique style, a new approach for Hilton with this 4 star premium hotel.
It was agreed there should be no external façade lighting. However, to give the building a presence, an LED colour changing system was employed in the main function room to illuminate the sheers and partly etched windows at one end. The result is that of an internally lit glass box. For the most part the colour is red which is the predominant colour throughout the interior that provides warmth to the relatively grey streetscape.
The lighting was designed with atmosphere in mind with the potential for the space to be light and airy during the day when there are daylight comparisons in the space and to avoid areas of the space being gloomy. This has been achieved by the use of continuous fluorescent lighting slots that provide a cool light during the day and a warm light at night. The atmosphere has also been generated by providing a layering of light through the space. These elements range from:

  • Small, low voltage narrow-beam downlighters that provide in-fill pools of general light on the floor and stairs;
  • Small, low voltage narrow beam accent lights to the bar and reception counters, artwork and flower display;
  • Small low voltage downlighters concealed within a ceiling slot (to reduce the number of lights visible on the ceiling) to illuminate the dark timber and bronze wall panels behind the reception desk and adjacent to the stairs;
  • Concealed low-level xenon striplighting at skirting level and beneath the bar and reception counters. These highlight the changes in level through the space and make the floor plates appear to float. The warm colour of the xenon lighting on the light stone floor is also essential for creating a cosy and inviting feel to the space;
  • Table and task lights were specified to provide warmth and intimacy to the space;
  • Small recessed wall mounted low voltage lights were used to highlight the steps and identify the change in levels
  • Thin, cool white LED lighting strips arranged in an irregular pattern are incorporated within the dark timber and bronze panels behind the reception and adjacent to the stairs to relieve the expanses of wall, and continue up through the stairwell to the other public areas on the 1st and 2nd floor levels;
  • The signature colour of the hotel is red (not blue as one usually associates with Hilton) which appears in the form of back-illuminated glass and fabric panels on the bar and reception desk which are enhanced by the use of red LEDs. The red also appears in pictures, objects of art and in the flower displays;
  • Behind the reception there is also a striking backlit box, lit with cold cathode, which gives emphasis and acts as a draw to the reception desk end of the space;


Small recessed narrow-beam low voltage downlighters are concealed in a ceiling slot to provide dramatic shafts of light down the faces of the polished concrete columns.
The lighting of the main lobby, as elsewhere in the public areas, is controlled by a preset lighting control system incorporating timers which allows the lighting moods to be programmed to provide balanced lighting scenes at different times of the day. These scenes are automatically controlled relative to daylight via an astronomical time clock and manually overridden if necessary by a password-protected touch-screen control plate behind the reception desk.
The ballroom is located on the first floor and consists of a space that can be divided in to three by partitions. The scheme has a unique identity. Each of the three sections consists of a suspended ceiling that is made to float by the use of concealed warm white cove lighting which also contributes to provide general illumination to the wall and space. Each suspended ceiling has three circular coffers of different colours, two taupe and one red, which are also lit with concealed cold cathode and from which is a suspended opal free-formed pendant backlit by cool and warm white dimmable fluorescent fixtures cool for daytime functions and warm for evening/night time functions.
The mood within the space is also provided by perimeter downlighters with ceiling slots to light the walls and narrow beam downlighters to provide general pools of light. At the end of the ballroom there is a partially etched glass wall with sheers which is illuminated by a colour changing LED striplight concealed in a ceiling slot at high level. For the most part the colour is red but there are scenarios where the colour can be changed according to the function within the space. And of course the effect of this is highly visible from outside.
The ballroom has a preset control system that enables the three sections to be used individually or as one space. The preset control consists of key operated multi-button control plates which allow scenes for conferences, receptions, dining and AV presentations.
The restaurant’s identity is created by unusual direct/indirect pendants that provide the general illumination as well as uplit glazed screens. Low voltage downlighters provide infill general lighting and accent lighting to some of the perimeter tables and the serveries. The screens are lit by the use of concealed warm white fluorescent uplighters built into the base of the screen to bring out the texture of the material laminated within the glass.
The meeting rooms have proved very popular as they can be used in a number of different functions such as meetings, seminars, audio visual presentations, etc., and the lighting was designed accordingly as well as to enhance the rooms. The lighting, which is controlled by a preset lighting control system is provided by sleek indirect T5 fluorescent uplighters located on the centre line of the room, and low glare low voltage downlighters. The ends of the rooms and perimeter niches are lit by directional low voltage downlighters.
The scenes in the meeting rooms are generally set as follows:

  • Meetings and conferences - All lights on at a reasonable level (low voltage lights are generally under-run by 5% to increase lamp life);
  • Presentations - All lighting is dimmed down to 50-60% except for the perimeter lights at the end where the presentation is taking place;
  • Reception - The fluorescent uplighter and the general downlighters are turned down but the perimeter lights remain reasonably high;
  • AV Presentations - All lights are turned off except for some of the low glare central downlighters which are heavily dimmed to provide a soft general light sufficient for people to take notes.


Perimeter downlights are employed to illuminate the media boards, artworks, curtains and niches. The lighting fades between scenes allowing users to adjust to the different lighting levels. One thing that adds to the atmosphere of the space is the use of white note paper and coasters on the dark tables, which provides contrast without the need for specific accent lighting. In order to reduce heat gain and optimise energy efficiency within the space and retain the level of lighting control required, energy saving IRC low voltage lamps were used.

Lighting suppliers
Lumino - Recessed Trimless linear downlight;
Absolute action - Fibre optic bedside reading light;
Light Projects - Plexineon, LED Uplight 450101 and downlights;
Light Years - Osram Linear Light;
Flos - Mini Ball;
Crescent - Linear Colour Change in meeting room



A colour changing LED striplight is highly visible from the outside

  • Fleming

    Low voltage narrow beam downlighters provide in-fill pools of general light on the floor and stairs

  • Hilton

    Fluorescent lighting slots provide cool light during the day and warm light at night

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