Transforming two pieces of infrastructure with interactive and playful coloured lighting, ÅF Lighting have made the ordinary delightful – one a mundane underpass, the other a landmark bridge
Words by Jill Entwistle
Svindersvik Bridge, Sweden
Unless we’re in Ginza, Piccadilly Circus or Hong Kong, where the rules went out the window long ago, the successful use of coloured lighting is about the judicious and the meaningful. Or as one IALD judge observed of the Merit Award-winning scheme for the Svindersvik Bridge: ‘Purposeful, restrained, elegant. A deft use of light and colour to create a landmark in remarkable harmony with its environment.’
The lighting concept for the new bridge linking two cities just south of Stockholm is based on the idea of two luminous wedding rings, symbolising the union between communities. When the water of the river underneath is calm, the arcs of the bridge are reflected in the surface, creating two full rings visible from a distance, creating a new landmark viewed from land and water.
Colours to light the bridge were chosen to harmonise with the sky at dawn. Image Credit: Olof Thiel
The structure also had to blend well with the surroundings. The area is close to a wildlife reserve, so optics and shields were used to ensure tight control of the lighting, while the natural palette of white, blue and amber was chosen to harmonise with the sky at dawn and dusk. Studies were made to ensure that the correct amount of light would be evenly spread over the bridge, preventing glare. As with any road bridge, the functional and aesthetic lighting had to be balanced to ensure safe driving conditions. The amount of functional light decreases during low traffic, lending more focus to the decorative lighting.
Colours to light the bridge were chosen to harmonise with the sky at dusk. Image Credit: Olof Thiel
Luminaires were precisely placed and directed to follow the curvature of the form. Working closely with the architects who designed the bridge, ÅF Lighting was able to influence the tone of the white-grey paint, which helped achieve the lighting result.
Functional and decorative lighting are switched on and off through the municipal lighting system. A local control system automatically changes the lighting scenes for the arches, depending on time of day and the season. To achieve the best result, a solar study was conducted to identify the sun’s exact positions and angles throughout the year.
Story Wall, Sweden
Transforming tunnels and subways from scary dark places into spaces that people might want to use has become quite widespread, and invariably it has involved introducing coloured light. Rarely, though, has it been applied with such a light and delightful touch as in AF Lighting’s award-winning scheme in Eskilstuna, west of Stockholm, in Sweden.
The local authority wanted to turn a Stygian pedestrian tunnel into a more inviting place, but at minimal cost. The result is the Story Wall, which introduces subtle colour and a degree of animation provided by the pedestrians themselves. Approaching the tunnel, people will notice nothing more than the well-lit walls along the pedestrian path. Once they step inside they can see that the lighting creates a colourful shadow show that mimics their movements as they walk, run or cycle through.
A simple and budget-conscious solution has turned a forbidding underpass into a fun place. Image Credit: Tobias Olsson
Keeping to a low budget, the lighting design had to work with existing white-tiled walls and grey concrete pillars. The designers also couldn’t change, and rather needed to complement, the yellow-toned light cast by the existing luminaires. ‘The technique used to create the lighting is easy, even obvious, but extremely effective,’ says Kai Piippo of AF Lighting. ‘Single-colour fixtures, placed evenly between the pillars, create shadows that are as sharply defined as possible. These red, green and blue luminaires cast coloured shadows from each passerby on to the white walls. In combination with their distance from the walls, visitors’ movements affect the appearance of the space.’
Single-colour fixtures in red, green and blue are evenly spaced between pillars, casting shadows from users as they pass by or play in the light.Image Credit: Göran Jonsson / Eskilstuna Municipality
Winning an Award of Merit in this year’s IALD awards and being highly commended in the Lighting Design Awards, the scheme’s main goal was to improve the local people’s everyday impression of their city, turning the tunnel into an attractive meeting point. Four months after installing the new lighting, the municipality reported that the tunnel has been used more frequently than before.
Single-colour fixtures in red, green and blue are evenly spaced between pillars, casting shadows from users as they pass by or play in the light.
‘Dozens of people, who would have passed through this space daily without thought for their surroundings given a more typical lighting solution, now find cause for delight and curiosity and interaction because of the thoughtful use of light,’ said an IALD judge.