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Old Spitalfields Market, London, England

Issue 45 Oct / Nov 2008 : Retail : Mall



For centuries Spitalfields Market was the hub of activity in the east end of London. Now it has been restored to its former glory aided by a dynamic lighting scheme.

Old Spitalfields Market, one of the finest surviving Victorian Market Halls in the City of London, once provided fruit and vegetables for the whole of London from under its canopy roof. Today, the East End market has become home to a vast array of stalls selling everything from cutting-edge fashion to bric-a-brac. Ballymore acquired the sub-lease in 1999 and has since then undertaken a refurbishment and restoration project anchored around the existing market, an improved retail offering and a flexible cultural space. In 2005 Jestico & Whiles and Julian Harrap Architects were selected to improve the appearance of the historic market and roof together with the design quality of the pavilions within the hall. Jestico & Whiles was responsible for the overall lighting concept whilst Julian Harrap tackled the detail lighting for the roof restoration. Due to the complex incorporation of a large number of media and lighting fixtures, a specialist company was required to blend the various elements and provide a turnkey solution. Working alongside Fulcrum, the appointed M & E consultant, E-Luminate was able to provide exactly that. There were some tricky elements to the installation in the form of extreme cable runs underground, work at height, plus the control of some 35,000 DMX channels!

Spitalfields Market began as a market in the 13th century in a field next to St Mary Spittal on the edge of the Roman plan of the City of London. In 1682, King Charles II granted silk thrower John Balch a Royal Charter that gave him the right to hold a market on Thursdays and Saturdays in or near Spitall Square. For the next 200 years, the market traded from a collection of sheds and stalls. In 1876, a former market porter called Robert Horner bought a short lease on the market and started work on a new market building, designed by George Sherrin, which was completed in 1893 at a cost of £80,000.

In 1920, the City of London acquired direct control of the market, extending the original Horner Buildings to the west. The market functioned as a fruit and vegetable wholesale market until 1991, when, with no further room for expansion, it relocated to new purpose-built premises in Leyton, where it continues to thrive as New Spitalfields Market.

In recent times, Spitalfields has sought to re-invent itself, as one of London’s best-known consumer markets, operating on a Thursday, Friday and Sunday. The remainder of the time the market hall has been used for recreational and cultural activities.
The entire Spitalfields site was subject to a redevelopment masterplan developed in the 1990s by Foster and Partners for the Spitalfields Development Group (SDG). After much debate, approval was received for a redevelopment that replaced the western 1920s market hall, retaining some of the characterful perimeter buildings, with a substantial commercial development on Bishopsgate. The construction of the new development, Bishops Square, was completed in 2006.

The Market hall represents a unique covered space of nearly 6000m2 on the east London City boundary. Little work had been undertaken since it closed as a vegetable market so Ballymore appointed the arts consultant Futurecityarts to develop an Arts Strategy for Old Spitalfields Market. The vision for the space was to become a cultural hub supported by a programme of events as well as its ongoing use as a retail market. As a first step towards achieving this vision, Ballymore provided sponsorship and support for the UK’s first Museum of Kinetic Art for a six month period in a retail unit within Old Spitalfields Market. This was a huge success, and Kinetica, as an institution, was founded.
Whilst it was not practically possible for Ballymore to accommodate the Kinetica Museum on site indefinitely, the idea emerged that it would be possible within the architecture of the market refurbishment to keep some vestige of the kinetic spirit in place. So the Spitalfields Digital Canvas was born which has been developed by Jestico & Whiles with Fulcrum Consultancy providing technical design in conjunction with E-Luminate. This involved a number of interconnected lighting and display components integrated into the fabric of the buildings inside the market which can be programmed and controlled centrally and interactively. These are intended to be used in concert, and programmed over time by a variety of digital artists, allowing new ‘installations’ to change and evolve constantly.

The approach to the roof lighting developed by Julian Harrap Architects was to install industrial style referenced light fittings as found during the last century in larger sheds and halls. The 52 pendant high bay light fittings are dimmable and custom made by Holophane who worked closely with Harrap and Fulcrum Consultancy. Three standard parts of their range have been altered to create a unique solution. This combines a downwards facing shade, incorporating new SuperGlass reflectors, and a longer cylinder with a box on top. A cool light colour was chosen to suit the market use. The pendants dim up and down dependant on daylight  saving over 30% of the pendant energy by day. In addition, Holophane have provided an automatic lighting controller (HOLOS) that automatically generates several scenes over the evening by a combination of switching and dimming.

The uplighters by Martini Lighting have been installed to pick out and highlight the trusses of the roof. The effect is supported by the chosen colour scheme of lighter grey trusses against darker timber boarding. The architect designed the routing of all wiring within channels that were integrated in the strengthening of the purlins, avoiding visible cables.






Pavilions ‘Lightbox’ cladding 
These are blank panels in the pavilion façades, necessitated by dividing walls and back-of-house facilities which have used the existing pavilion glazing that has been coated with a translucent film. A sealed white-painted box, approximately 100mm deep, has been fixed behind the glass and contains LED lighting from The Light Lab. This lighting and its associated driver unit can be accessed for future maintenance from inside the pavilion through a removable panel. 
Control: Each Lightbox panel is individually controllable to any colour from the central control console in Pavilion 4 to any colour.


Cladding the exterior of the lift shaft are 263 Traxon Mirror 64PXL Wash Panels chosen for their ability to blend cleanly into the architecture of the market, reflecting the architectural features in their smoked mirror diffusers even when inactive.  When turned on, the lift shaft springs into life with the panels creating a four-sided low-resolution LED based video screen that can display text, moving imagery or ambient colour-changing effects.  Additional benefits of the installation are found in the low power consumption enabled through the use of LEDs in the panels, meaning that environmental concerns are addressed without compromising effect. The lift is transformed into a light installation in its own right into a modern blend of art and functional architecture.
Control: Each pixel is individually controllable like a television from a video feed on the central control console in Pavilion 4.

An Element Labs linear LED strip VersaTube is used with each pixel individually controllable with video signal similar to the panels described above. These are arranged in strips running the length of the soffit connecting Pavilion 1 and Pavilion 2.  
Control:  Each pixel of each tube individually controllable like a television from a video feed on the central console. 

Arcade Screen
The Light Lab developed fifteen panels of thermally-enamelled toughened glass that is edge-lit incorporating colour-changing LED strips in the framing system. The frit on the glass picks up coloured light when the LEDs are on, when they are off the glass is virtually transparent. The idea of the panels are to provide an attractor at the end of the arcade established by the Bishops Wharf development.   
Control: Each panel is individually controllable to any colour.

History Box
Similar to the lightboxes in the pavilions, the cladding to the substation is a backlit translucent glass with printed white letters using iGuzzini LEDs. Each of the four faces of the enclosure has a passage of prose printed upon it which is taken from Spitalfields History: Pepys 1669; Dickens 1851; Ackroyd 2000, Winterson 2007. Wrapping the box is a timeline which has dates from Roman times to now. 
Control: The whole box is controllable to any colour.

Entrance Gateposts
Similar to the lightboxes in the pavilions, each gatepost, which has either the name of the market on it or the name of the gate, features a bespoke backlit signage box containing Coldiod Tube Light LED Light strips by Nordlight.
Control: The gateposts can be controlled to be any colour. In default conditions however, it is anticipated that each of the gates will have a defined colour.

Entrance Floor strips 
The floor strips are intended to provide a dynamic element of transition between street and market hall. The design of the entrances blends from the paving of the street to the granite of the market hall. The Hess LEDIA LL light strips are incorporated into this blend. In default conditions, it is anticipated that each of the gates will also have a defined colour.  
Control: The floor strips can be controlled to be any colour. 

Marketplace columns
The internal architectural columns of the marketplace are highlighted by using buried white LED narrow beam uplighters with adjustable flat top by Crescent.

Illuminated signage and emergency lighting has been provided for the whole marketplace area and the pavilions.              
All luminaires at the marketplace are controlled by the latest DMX technology via a media engine. Through that device, various scene settings were created to provide different lighting effects for the different events of the market. Aside from the components of the digital canvas, there is also new system of lighting in the roof of the market and around the pavilions and perimeter of the Horner Buildings that can be controlled by the same scene setting lighting control system by Holophane.


The Pavilion features an illuminated glazed screen comprises fifteen LED edge-lit panels from The Light Lab with full DMX RGB colour control from e:cue. The ‘Digital Canvas’ of the whole site was developed by Jestico & Whiles, Fulcrum Consultancy and E-Luminate


All pics: Gwynne Jones

  • The History Box is in fact a substation clad in glass panels with iGuzzini LED lighting

  • Traxon Mirror 64PXL Wash Panels are used to light the lift shaft because of its ability to blend into the architecture of the market

  • Spitalfields Market, London

    Julian Harrap Architects was responsible for the roof lighting

  • Spitalfields Market, London

    Uplighters by Martini highlight the trusses of the roof

  • Spitalfields Market, London

    The Holophane fittings use dimmable metal halide lamps and are daylight linked so that energy is not wasted

  • Spitalfields Market, London

    Holophane worked with Julian Harrap and Fulcrum to design the high bay pendants based on fittings found during the last century in the halls but incorporating Holophane's new Superglass reflectors

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