Burlington Arcade, situated between Bond Street and Piccadilly, is one of the world’s oldest and most celebrated shopping arcades. Almost two hundred years old, the arcade has a rich and varied history. It was the retail destination in Victorian London favoured by royalty and the cream of British society and even set its own “rules of conduct” many of which are still upheld today by the infamous Beadles. In the 20th Century, the northern end of the arcade was completely destroyed during the Blitz, leading to a restoration both of building and reputation. The arcade’s history runs parallel to the development of artificial lighting. Initially gas lit, the arcade was subsequently illuminated by incandescent lighting and latterly discharge lighting. The unfortunate consequence of these many changes was not only the loss of the historic fixtures and the original lit appearance of the arcade, but additionally each iteration had left its own legacy in terms of conduits, cabling and defunct equipment.
The arcade was purchased in 2010 by a joint venture comprising two international specialist retail real estate investors, Meyer Bergman and Thor Equities, whose aim was to physically restore the iconic property and reinstate the historic space as a global luxury shopping destination. To help deliver this vision, Speirs + Major were commissioned to redesign the lighting of the arcade, working alongside heritage architectural specialists Blair Associates.
The key aim of the project was to restore the arcade to its original design and its former glory as Britain’s most historical retail destination. With the removal of the existing low hanging modern ceiling lights which, opened up the unobstructed and original view of the arches down the full length of the arcade for the first time in over 100 years. A specific part of the client brief was to provide a more natural lighting solution that would accentuate the building’s magnificent architectural detailing. This required the lighting to have a minimal physical impact.In addition, stripping back the large quantity of exposed light fittings and cabling and replacing it, where possible, with concealed fittings and wiring infrastructure.
The lighting scheme also had to address a number of important practical considerations. It had to operate on a reduced total load compared to the previous installation, which was already very energy efficient. This was driven both by a desire to improve the sustainability of the scheme and by increased demands from elsewhere on a limited electrical supply to the building. Speirs + Major also worked to reduce the maintenance required, not only for the cost benefits, but also to protect the long term appearance of the installation by reducing the chance of fitting focuses being changed. Lastly, the installation had to support the many events that are held in the arcade, facilitating the installation of temporary lighting equipment and allowing the installation to be fully controlled from an event lighting desk.
The addition of dedicated uplighting was the key component in improving the appearance of the arcade. Achieving this required Speirs + Major to design a new miniature linear LED lighting product incorporating a barn-door system to provide simple control over the light distribution. Variable colour temperature was built into the system to allow the appearance to be adapted to suit the daylight conditions. 4000K white light is used on dull summer days; this balances well with the daylight, making the artificial light almost imperceptible. On winter’s day, a warmer temperature closer to 3500K is used to provide a more inviting appearance in the lower ambient light conditions. Throughout the year, after dark, the colour temperature is warmed progressively down to 2700K and dimmed to evoke the softness of gas light. The uplighting is supplemented by spotlighting at the archways to highlight the rhythm of the architecture. Miniature LED fittings using elliptical lenses are positioned on either side of each archway, which provide a very accurate contained effect.
As well as concealing the fixtures as far as possible, great efforts were taken to conceal the wiring too. A particular profile of conduit was selected by the architect that could be integrated imperceptibly into the corners of the window frames. Following the removal of the reproduction lanterns downlighting needed to be re-introduced to maintain appropriate light levels at the floor of the arcade and to create brighter levels adjacent to the shop frontages. A custom fixture, developed for this purpose, has been integrated as subtly as possible into the corners of the skylights; the LED fixture is profiled to match the angle of the skylights. It incorporates transverse louvres to minimise visibility and is adjustable to avoid any catch on the skylight edges.
Guidelines for the tenants have also been provided to help them to improve the lighting of their shop windows as they refurbish their units as well as to try to ensure that their lighting compliments the look of the arcade as a whole. All of the arcade lighting is programmed to change automatically through the day. During the daytime, uplighting and downlighting are only used when there is insufficient daylight, with colour temperature being used selectively according to the season. During the course of the evening, these main lighting elements progressively dim and warm, allowing the detailing of the architecture to be revealed by the spotlighting. For events, an interface has been provided which allows external contractors to plug in their DMX lighting desk and to take control over every lighting element individually to give them total creative freedom over the look of the arcade. As soon as they unplug their equipment, the lighting is restored to its previous settings.
Burlington Arcade’s Piccadilly façade is architecturally quite complex, so a layered lighting scheme has been developed to highlight the key architectural components: the main archway, the window archways, the balustrades and the coat of arms. Additional lighting is provided to identify the arcade by highlighting the signage and flag. The composition is completed by the uplighting of the curved flank walls just inside the main archway, which help to create a welcoming entrance. Besides concealing both the fittings and wiring, the main challenge on the façade was to achieve a consistent quality of white light. The variety of different lighting elements required the use of fixtures from five different manufacturers. With LED being used for its size, efficiency and dimmability in all but the flag spotlighting, great care was taking to select the correct binnings of LEDs for each manufacturer to create as close a match as possible.
Burlington Gardens façade
The Art Deco façade at the northern end of the arcade is considerably simpler than the Piccadilly façade. For the distant views, the facade is grazed by a close-offset curtain of light, which gives the building a gentle presence and dramatically reveals the coat of arms in relief. From closer views, the detail of the façade is revealed through the gentle uplighting of the finials, the flag lighting and the concealed uplighting of the signage along the edge of the canopy. The key feature of this entrance is the underside of the canopy. Previously this had been a simple hardboard soffit into which half a dozen metal halide downlights had been recessed. In keeping with similar Art Deco buildings, a new glazed canopy has been backlit to provide real impact for the entrance and a welcoming appearance on winter’s days and during the evenings.Location: London, UK Lighting design: Speirs +Major Architect: Blair Associates Architecture Client: Meyer Bergman & Thor Equities
Electrical contractor: Polyteck
Main Suppliers: Mike Stoane Lighting, ACDC Lighting, Control Lighting Photos: James Newton