Sandvika River Promenade, Norway

12th February 2021

Lighting designers at Zenisk have created a beautiful bespoke lighting solution that brings an artistic materiality to the Sandvika riverside promenade in Bærum, Norway.

Located just outside Oslo, Norway, Bærum is situated on either side of the Sandvika river at the meeting point of a fjord. Sandvika Municipality has recently increased its focus on urban quality and decided to develop its riverbank into a recreational promenade that will allow locals to take full advantage of the surrounding nature. 

The public space project was opened for entries to landscape architects, lighting designers and engineers, with entries evaluated on a point-based system: a third of points evaluates the team’s competence and previous portfolio of work, another third goes to the understanding of the project brief and the final third is given to the budget proposal. 

Lighting design firm Zenisk was awarded the project, along with Dronninga Landscape practice, a firm it has previous experience and a good working relationship with, after submitting its initial lighting proposal in 2016.

arc caught up with Kristin Bredal, Director of Zenisk, to find out more about their involvement in the promenade development and the custom-designed light fixture created for the project. 

“Our main goal from the beginning was to enhance the materiality and quality of the wood decking of the new promenade, revealing it as one continuous space and visually separated from the rest of the area,” she explained. 

“Keeping it clutter free from lighting columns was also a priority. The idea was to give the promenade an exclusive warmth and give the necessary functional light for the street.

“Creating a new, comfortable and pleasant pedestrian experience in this fragmented space interrupted by many bridges was the main idea behind all the design solutions,” she added. 

For the general lighting, the team suggested using 12-metre-high lighting columns, which provided functional lighting, both to the street and to the promenade, with precise and shielded beams. In order to balance the look, Zenisk added a low-level mounted glowing bespoke fixture, that would “bring focus and attention of the pedestrians to the floor level and enhance their experience through the space”. Furthermore, Bredal noted that it was easy to hold a good balance of light in the area due to a lack of competing light interfering from neighbouring installations. 

Bredal and her team was encouraged to design a custom fixture inspired by the historical lantern of Sandvika. 

“We have a long and good collaboration history with Dronninga Landscape. They not only respect our ideas, but they encourage us to be brave and inspire us to create. Having their support is precious to us, and what true collaboration and teamwork is about. We interfered with each other’s disciplines all the time during the concept phase, with ideas and feedback, and this elevated the design, blends the disciplines on top of also being great fun.

“This custom bollard [the Sandvikslykta] is in-between being a functional light source and a light art object,” she explained. “The initial concept was to have the light twinkle constantly like a flame of a candle. Dark winter days are long in Norway, but so are bright summer days. We wanted this to be a jewel that also sparkles in daylight. This meant designing the light source inside hand blown crystal glass to catch the twinkle from the LED inside and the sparkle from the sun and daylight outside.” 

To start off with, the team created a 1:1 model of the lantern from wood and plexiglass to study the shape and size. Based on this model, they progressed to a 3D render to adjust and finalise the design. 

Together with Rebel Light, Zenisk developed a special DMX LED luminaire from Radiant. The luminaire has 16 LED light sources in different colour temperatures distributed over four DMX channels. 

“Apart from a construction that needs to be sturdy and available for maintenance, a lot of consideration went into the proportions and shape. We wanted a timeless, stylised shape to enhance the effect of the light and the crystal.

“When the first conceptual drawing was made, Hadeland Glass and Rebel Light were chosen for further collaboration based on the input solutions they offered. Handblown glass with air bubbles captures the light from the LEDs with varying colour temperatures, programmed in a dynamic scenario with DMX controls.” 

The original proposal for the scheme had incorporated the Sandvikslykta to be placed in the most prominent part of the promenade, but it was decided by the municipality to extend its placement to cover the whole stretch. “This gave us a great opportunity to explore how we could make the best use of it along the whole promenade,” said Bredal. “With two different sizes, we were able to integrate it all nicely with the landscape and furniture design, giving the whole promenade a rhythm, enhancing the experience through it for pedestrians and cyclists.” 

Given Norway’s long spells of darkness during the winter, Bredal clarified that it is important to have well-designed outdoor lighting. “When the leaves are gone and it is pitch black and wet, or white with snow, you need that little spark, twinkle or glow that gives you visual stimuli and an experience. Norwegians are light deprived during winter, so we crave it both physically and mentally.

“As a general note in regard to lighting and the pandemic, this winter lighting was high on the municipalities agendas all around Norway, with lots of temporary installations all over the cities.” 

Typically, challenges teams face when working on projects with new clients include ensuring the client is able to clearly understand the vision and see the whole picture of a potentially brave and bold concept. “We find that the best way is to include the client as much as possible in the analysis phase, giving them options to evaluate, showing them what each layer of light does and exploring how the act of seeing and feeling safe is so closely connected to our social behaviours and our sense of belonging and identity,” explained Bredal. 

For this particular project, she reflected on the fact that they were particularly grateful to have a competent and understanding client in the Bærum municipality, that comprehended the importance and power of light, and the freedom they were granted to realise the Sandvikslykta design true to its original design concept.

“We feel very fortunate to have had the chance to work on this great project. Norwegians are big on outdoor activity and spending time outside in nature. However, this does not always happen in our cities, which still have a lot of potential in the dark, where public space is mostly used for circulation,” she said. “There is a change happening in our cities, with more dwell time opportunities within the urban fabric. Our hope is that by activating this promenade with special lanterns in the dark, we will encourage residents to spend more time here and make it their own space,” she concluded.