Yotel Vega, UK

Image: Gunner Gu

With a dynamic, retro-futuristic lighting scheme, Artin Light has created a vibrant, experiential journey of light at Glasgow’s newly opened Yotel hotel and Vega bar and restaurant.

For those of us that enjoy a city break, the hotel is often seen as a place of respite, somewhere to lay your head after a busy day of exploring. But, for Glasgow’s newly-opened Yotel hotel, and adjoining Vega bar and restaurant, the hotel is a destination in itself.

As a brand, Yotel has become known around the world for its quirky, vibrant aesthetic, and the Glasgow branch is no exception. Designed by Canadian interior designers DesignAgency, with lighting design from Artin Light, the hotel takes visitors on a retro-futuristic adventure from the lobby – dubbed ‘Mission Control’ – up to the Vega bar and restaurant on the seventh floor.

Peppered throughout this journey are a series of dramatic light interventions, more akin to a trail of light art installations than a traditional architectural lighting scheme; from the Purple Pills in Mission Control, to the Reflection Portal in the lift lobby, the lift experience itself, and the dynamic, graphic equaliser-inspired bowling alley inside Vega.

Luke Artingstall, Director of Artin Light, explained the concept behind the lighting: “There was a lot of influence from what other Yotel branches had done, and the experience that you get when you first walk in,” he said. “I wanted the lighting design to tap into that, but with a futuristic twist so that when people walk in, they think that it’s really cool and a little bit different.

“The interior for Mission Control was quite minimal and clean, with lots of curves and strong materials. This worked really well with the lighting design as we could then integrate lighting into details; there’s a lot of indirect lighting, letting light dissipate from the perimeters into the interior space.

“The Purple Pills in the entrance area were such an important part of the visual experience as you approach the building as you see them externally in the double height void, and as you walk underneath them, they are slowly and subtly animated in the purples and blues synonymous with the Yotel brand. The design for the pills was inspired by the interior vibe – there are no sharp corners, everything is smooth and curved, so that was the start of the journey.

“We wanted to create an immersive experience where it’s not just about lighting, it’s like you’re entering an art installation. Interaction was such a big part of what we were trying to achieve.”

With so many bold light elements across the space, Artingstall said that he was encouraged throughout by a very enthusiastic client. “Yotel were really excited about our initial concepts,” he said. “They bought into the theme straight away, and that was really exciting for us because there are some iconic pieces within the building that create this fragmented journey, and then the lighting design flows through it.”

From Mission Control, guests are guided to the lift lobby – a beautiful, arched space that has been highlighted with concentric channels of indirect light. Here, Artin Light created a “surprise” element: the Reflection Portal at the end of the archway. Inspired by reflection and movement, as well as the concentric geometry of the space, the Reflection Portal features a backlit, digital mirror that was designed to play on illusion and perception of the 3D space, drawing visitors into a ‘portal’ and absorbing them into the artwork. The digital mirror features bespoke artwork content developed by Artin Light, alongside Studiotech, which creates a “digital portal” that reacts to the movement detected within the lift lobby.

From here, guests step into the feature lift, which takes them up to Vega on the seventh floor. A far cry from the typical lift experience, Artingstall wanted to create a “complete inversion” of the lobby experience.

“The lift lobby where we have the mirrored arch is a beautifully bright, light space, and the concept was to flip it on its head and play with your perception of space and darkness,” he said. “Inside the lift, we wanted to create a black void, where you walk into this cube and everything is blacked out, with no light whatsoever. The idea was that as you go up to the seventh floor, it’s like going through space, so from the black void we created an animated experience with light and sound that would take you on a journey up the building, immersing you into a digital artwork that is inspired by the different elements of the interior design.

“It was a really challenging part of the project, because of the confinements of the lift and what we had to work with, but it’s such a massive element of the scheme and was one of the starting points where we developed the whole concept from there. One of the first things that the client said to us was ‘we’ve got this lift and we want you to do something with it’, and that then inspired what we did in Mission Control, the Purple Pills, the Reflection Portal, and it had an influence on the bowling alley in Vega too. It was as if once the client had a taste for it, they wanted to see how far we could push it, and that’s ultimately what you want to hear as a designer.”

Moving up the building, the Vega restaurant and bar continues with the overarching “futuristic, sci-fi, cyber city crossed with Miami Vice” feel that was established in Mission Control, with neon lighting details punctuating the dark and moody atmosphere of the space. This also served as a direction influence on what Artingstall did with the final artistic element of the project, the bowling alley.

“The bowling alley was a space that the interior designers wanted to take in one direction, using projection to create interaction, but because of the architecture of the space it was a little bit problematic. That was the opportunity to take the neon influence from the bar area and bring it to the bowling alley by creating a retro sci-fi, synth wave mashup of an installation, that would have a visual interaction as you bowled as well.”

The vast ceiling installation, for which Artin Light again collaborated with Studiotech, serves as a digital canvas, with bars of light that interact with users as they bowl, tracking the ball down the alley and creating a vibrant play of light. “I don’t believe anyone has ever gone down that route in terms of what we achieved with the final installation,” Artingstall continued. “The space had a massive ceiling expanse that needed us to do something cool with it. When I first saw it, I thought that we could do something so much better.”

With the various dynamic, artistic lighting elements throughout the project, the lighting for the Vega bar and restaurant was kept deliberately minimal, with low levels adding to the intense, moody atmosphere of the space. Alongside pops of colour from decorative pendants and neon-esque wall lights, the lighting for the bar is characterised by an expansive mirrored ceiling, interspersed sporadically with “night sky” panels. 

Artingstall explained: “Within the mirrored ceiling panels, we saw an opportunity to create miniature infinity panels as well. We used fibre optics to create a night sky effect, which was a big part of the concept. We also had mirrors in the walls of the restaurant and bar that had fibre optics behind them too, so while it was dark and moody, the colour pops and the twinkling lights in the mirrors help to amplify the whole visual experience.”

The night sky effect comes into play after dark, mixing with the coloured lights within the space to add to the vibrant ambience of the space. “During the day, the lights are switched off and everything is quite bright and light, and not about the colour, but at nighttime it would transition – all of the RGBW elements of the scheme go into pinks and blues, while the fibre optics in the mirrored panels completely flip the space,” Artingstall added.

“But the contrast of the lighting was so important; it wasn’t about trying to over-light the space, but using really tight, narrow beams where we could, pin spotting tables and letting the colour and reflectiveness in the space do the talking.”

Looking back on the project after completion, Artingstall believes that there were a number of unique challenges to overcome, but the end result proves that the work was worth it in the long run.

“Naturally with any type of project like this, it was not just about the visual effect but the detailing as well – this was such a big part of the process, and coordinating all of the elements into one build-up was very difficult. It was one of those projects where you step a bit out of your comfort zone, but you don’t progress unless you do that.

“I believe that the lighting design really complements the interior design – the two go hand in hand. The artistic moments where we did the Purple Pills, the Reflection Portal, the lift and the bowling alley make a massive part of the hotel. People want to go there and experience that, they want something different and a bit more, and I think that we’ve done that with this project.

“I love art, I love light art and playing with perception and space. I wanted the project to be a visual experience that is like going to a mini light art festival.”

Artingstall concluded that it was through the encouragement of an engaged and supportive client that he was able to create such an experiential journey of light throughout. “Yotel is a worldwide brand and it has got some amazing sites and hotels. It’s a really exciting brand to work with, and they really pushed it on this project. They let go, and I think that’s what’s really nice about it.

“Naturally, it’s got an excitement about it that draws you in, and hopefully the general public who go there will really enjoy it as well, as it’s such a visual treat for the eye.”

www.artinlight.co.uk