Black Prince Road, UK

Pic: Mike Massaro

In March 2016, the Lambeth London Borough Council decided to regenerate Black Prince Road, an historic landmark in the area.

Located in central London, Lambeth is an area that houses up to 30,000 people as well as being home to the International Maritime Organisation. The street name’s origin is derived from Edward of Woodstock, known as Edward, the Black Prince, who lived in Lambeth during the fourteenth century. As the eldest son of Edward III, his presence in the area resulted in much of the freehold land in Lambeth to remain under Royal ownership to this day.

Michael Grubb Studio was selected to help rejuvenate this area, and worked on replacing the lighting for the bridge that overlooks the road. Using inspiration from the Black Prince’s ruby, which is one of the oldest parts of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom, the team decided to illuminate the road and underpass in a rich red colour. The Black Prince’s ruby belonged to the Prince during the 1300s and has remained in the Royal Family ever since.

After designing a unique concept around this historically influenced area, Michael Grubb Studio brought in Schréder UK to support the project’s installation. The team experimented with various materials and light source samples to finalise the desired effect. The final outcome resulted in the installation of 52-metre custom made red LED strip fixtures by LED Linear.

Stuart Alexander, Associate at Michael Grubb Studio, explained some of the challenges the team faced: “A challenge for the project was to appreciate the historical significance of the structures as well as gain the approval from a host of interested stakeholder groups.

“For engineers, the bridge presented many difficult challenges. Its tunnel walls were old, uneven and in a state of disrepair. The LED strip mounted onto the walls had to be level and true to achieve the desired effect. Therefore, a levelling mounting channel was used by the specialist installation crew to ensure a fantastic finished result.

“The strip was divided into two-metre modules that were designed to fit together as a jigsaw, with each having custom graphics and a specific place on the tunnel walls. As a result, the process required communication between suppliers, designers, manufacturers and engineers to create the stunning end result and do justice to the original vision for the project,” Alexander added.

Due to the delicate nature of the structure, the team had to be careful to ensure the fixtures were mounted using the same method as the previous fluorescent luminaires. Using a standardised size and making them vandal proof meant any potential future issues could be easily resolved.

The core installation of 52-metre custom red LED Linear strip lights reflected off a hammered aluminium panel onto a polycarbonate protector with vinyl custom graphics applied. 27 Schréder LED handrail modules were built into the base of the strip to provide the desired lighting levels needed on the road, and were chosen for their small size and photometric performance.

Alexander described the key architectural lighting considerations the scheme had to maintain throughout: “To make sure the highway was lit to the correct standards, as well as ensuring no excess light flooded upwards, contributed to the red light giving the maximum impact within the space. Equally, making sure the pedestrian experience didn’t have any high glare made the use of handrail luminaires the perfect solution.

“We recognised no one had used handrail LED luminaires for street lighting before but we found it was the perfect solution and something we are looking to use elsewhere in future projects. Handrail luminaires have a huge range of controlled optics, they come in a very small form factor that can be easily built into many different bespoke shapes and only have 24V in them – and an added bonus is they’re built to be used as part of a handrail, so you can take a baseball bat to it with no problems!”

The overall simple, but powerful effect, transformed this functional street space in London and it’s become an iconic project on the firm’s profile.

“We didn’t realise the red would really ‘ping’ so much and reach the top of the space;  the resulting impact was far better than expected! We used a street light reflector within the housing of the red LED to give a crystal effect on the acrylic but no one anticipated the effect would work as well as it did. It really came to life!” reflected Alexander on the final look of the project.

“It was a simple idea very well executed with a stripped down, simple bespoke luminaire. The lighting is key; you really don’t (and shouldn’t) notice the housing apart from during the day, and that’s exactly how it worked out.”