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Knightsbridge, Brompton Road, London, England

Issue 78 April / May 2014 : Retail: Store


Knightsbridge is the true centre of regal London. Topped and tailed by Kensington Palace and Harrods, with a collection of multi-million pound properties in the middle, the area is prime city real-estate. GIA Equation has developed a scheme that ensured one of London’s crown jewels sparkled a little brighter.

The newly completed exterior lighting installation for the Knightsbridge Estate is the first in a series of steps to realising the owner’s vision for the estate. Chelsfield, the real estate investment partnership, hopes the area in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, will become one of the most prominent retail assets in London. The site is in a prime spot, the 3.5 acre estate is flanked by a number of high-end stores, including Harrods and Harvey Nichols and is not far from Kensington Palace, the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The total length of the lit façades is in excess of 500m, making it the largest installation of its kind in the UK and, when considered in full, provides a stunning lit panorama.

The exterior lighting project originally started in the autumn of 2011 when Chelsfield appointed GIA Equation to produce a façade lighting concept that would create a new and unique character for the area.  The Knightsbridge Estate building complex is a puzzle of different building styles and periods, each hosting retail activities on the ground floor, which are in themselves characterized by a considerable variety of styles.

There are a variety of stone sizes and shapes on the façade itself, as well as a cloud of light spill from the windows and branding labels across the site. Overall a consistency and visual continuity of lighting was painfully absent.

The new illuminated façades required a character of their own, proclaiming the eye-catching nature of the property and its distinct identity, in comparison to the equally strong images of Harvey Nichols, Harrods and the nearby Mandarin Oriental. To achieve this a lighting design was required that was quite distinct from any other exterior lighting scheme, at least in the vicinity of the site.

Elegance was certainly a watchword during the development of the scheme. Kensington and Chelsea is a particularly elegant area of the city and elegance is socially linked with minimalism and sophistication. Higher end retail spaces tend to follow more minimal lines and in order to achieve an elegant result on the building façade, a composition of white light tones was proposed for the project, as well as a simple sophisticated visual language that complimented the surface finishes and colours. For example it was required that a white light range was focused onto the stone façades, while golden whites were used on brick surfaces.

The early brief was to provide a lighting scheme that unified the asset above the varied retail outlets in order to provide a powerful yet unified and refined lit façade. The lighting was to be of the highest quality, not just from the design aspect, but also in the case of the lighting equipment and installation in order to ensure longevity and ease of maintenance.

The complexity of the predominantly early 19th century façades, of which three are Grade II listed buildings, commanded the use of discreet, specially finished custom made luminaires, that were unobtrusive in daylight conditions.

At the time the project was designed, there were no narrow beam dynamic white exterior uplights that were small enough in size. GIA Equation worked closely with acdc to adapt one of their standard range products, the Plaza surface mounted uplighter, into a custom luminaire. Bespoke metal channels were also designed for the façade to conceal the linear lighting at the low levels.

The selection of lighting equipment was a very rigorous process and lighting proposals were thoroughly mocked-up on site and tested well before commencement on site. Given the project location, on Kensington High Street, one of the busiest roads in London, the scaffolding needed to complete the project could only be in place for a very limited period and there were no opportunities for any significant last minute adjustments once work started on site.

The lighting scheme utilises dynamic white LED luminaires across the façade, offering a range from 2700K to 6000K. This enables the hue of white light to be tuned to suit the building materials of each façade. A total of 1500 individual luminaires are used with the entire block’s façade being controlled from a single location via a DMX protocol utilising over 3000 control channels across 14 DMX universes.

In order to accommodate the planned refurbishment of one of the buildings, a wireless DMX link has been used to ensure that construction work does not interfere with the functionality of the scheme. The use of LED technology has resulted in the development of an extremely low energy solution with the lighting using only 3.6W/m2. The lighting scheme is also programmed to turn off at 2am reducing energy usage further.

This is a completely ‘digital’ lighting scheme that offers a subtly different façade appearance in summer and winter months. Additionally RGB colour change luminaires have been installed within the window reveals of the corner buildings of the block, allowing for the colour enhancement of the scheme for special occasions such as Royal events and bank holidays.

To the delight of Chelsfield and the retail outlets resident in the area, the pleasing visual outcome created by the lighting scheme has already attracted a greater interest from both shoppers and retailers, bringing further elegance to one of London’s most refined districts.


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