Urbis Schréder: the new public realm lighting.

Look through the product range of any major manufacturer engaged in highway lighting and there are ranges that you expect to see – you’d be disappointed if they weren’t there . . . lighting for motorways, highways, major roads, minor roads, bridges and underpasses. In other words, all those vehicular routes that fit neatly into the Code of Practice for the design of road lighting: British Standards 5489. Without these, no lighting range can be considered complete.

But there’s a new vision for the public realm; one that goes beyond roadway lighting. The Public Realm of the 21st century is much more concerned with human activity when we’re walking around, meeting friends and enjoying our social life. Today’s public realm includes town centres, shopping malls, transport interchanges, heritage lighting and – to be honest – lighting for fun.

Michael Grubb Studio – Black Prince Road, London

Architectural interventions

Underpasses that were, until recently, grim and unwelcoming have become stunning light shows, while demonstrating that it’s not necessary to compromise on roadway illumination standards in the process. Lambeth council in South London approached lighting designers, Michael Grubb Studio to create a series of light-art installations.

At Black Prince Road, MGS wanted to deliver a ‘depiction of the crystallisation of a ruby’. Urbis Schréder explored what effects could be produced and developed prototypes for presentation to the client. In addition, functional lighting was introduced using the Alinea handrail module


Bespoke fixtures

Michael Grubb Studio – Old Paradise Street, London


Michael Grubb Studio, again. This underpass initiative from Lambeth Borough Council also called for bespoke fixtures, also designed and constructed to satisfy British Standards. The underpass at Old Paradise Street is an array of wall fixtures designed specifically by Urbis Schréder for the project.

The MGS concept was to create a lighting experience close to Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery. Each triangle allows light to spread onto the wall in a unique pattern. Different colour temperatures were used inside the triangles and for the lighting pattern to create visual texture along the railway arch.

Once again, it was necessary to provide roadway lighting to the required Standards, in this case utilising a discreet linear fixture that runs the length of the underpass, above
the feature wall-lights. This functional roadway lighting was provided by Alinea modules.. This linear detail sits above the bespoke triangular fixtures.
(see close-up image

Inner-city renewal.

And in city centres where Victorian industrial architecture had become an embarrassment to the local people, Brad-
ford rose to the challenge of creating new city centre landscaping adjacent to its major commuter station at Forster
Square. The St Blaise Square scheme won a Lux Award in 2017.

Bradford City Council – St. Blaise Square

The colour-changing of the archways was achieved using the Sculpline inset uplights, controlled via a city-centre-wide wireless DMX control system.

Bradford City Council wanted to improve the overall appearance of the Square to increase foot traffic from the station. Urbis Schréder handled the entire install, completing the work within one week.

The recessed in-ground units were secured with anti- tamper fixings, with an intricate layout of concealed cabling to mitigate against possible vandalism or damage.

Theatrical effects

Dynamic lighting effects are growing in use throughout the public realm. This installation at the Pier Approach in Bournemouth combines conventional amenity bollards with colour spotlighting and image projection using gobo
projectors, all mounted on columns designed to carry the additional weight of the lighting arrays.

Michael Grubb Studio was commissioned to design a new lighting scheme for their home town, Bournemouth. Sixteen columns, inlcuding two at 25m, the tallest in the UK, house gobo projectors, floodinglighting and a full DMX control interface.

The projects also required comprehensive testing of each column to ensure that each unit performed according to specification, and MGS joined the Urbis Schréder team on commissioning the lighting; confirming projector aiming and lighting levels and scene setting of the control system.

Michael Grubb Studio – Pier Approach, Bournemouth

Architectural integration

And finally, for this article at least, there is the issue of architectural integration. This is an issue that is close to heart of architects and lighting designers
alike – is it possible to ‘lose’ the fixtures within the structure so that only the lighting effect is seen.

This project in Reading, the Christchurch Bridge, is an excellent example of product integration. The continuous handrail follows the curve of the bridge – no easy task! – while the asymmetric stanchion and cable supports are highlighted from discreet spotlights, which also provides a highlighting blue cast to the metalwork of the balustrade.

The 40m handrail was a bespoke item for the project, as was the colour-changing feature lighting for the bridge architecture.


If there’s one thing that we’re learning, its that the spaces outside
our front doors are becoming more attractive places to be. Perhaps we should start referring to the 21st Century Public Realm as the 21st Century Social Realm!

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