London borough sees red in rail underpasses

A LOCAL AUTHORITY in the capital has taken a creative approach to the dark and threatening rail underpasses on its patch - by giving them a lighting makeover with dramatic red light.

The London Borough of Lambeth teamed up with independent lighting consultant Michael Grubb Studio to come up with a fresh solution to the problem – but it took almost five years to gain approval from all of the stakeholders.

Now the project has been shortlisted for a 2018 Lux Award.

The underpasses – which include Westminster Bridge Road, Upper Marsh Road, Black Prince Road and Old Paradise Street – had suffered from neglect and become unloved and unused.

The aim was to make the spaces more interesting by co-designing with the community, who had a major role to play. This was their space to champion and be proud of for generations to come.

This would be achieved by complementing the architecture, representing the space and encouraging connection with each other, in terms of participation. Schools and community groups played a key role in design workshops, learning about the history of the local area and developing artwork concepts. This, in turn, was used for some of the projections and animated scenes.

A challenge for the project was to appreciate the historical significance of the structures as well as gain approval from a host of interested stakeholder groups. This included: Transport for London, Network Rail, London Continental Railways, Waterloo Quarter BID, South Bank Employers’ Group, South Bank and Waterloo Neighbours and the PFI contractor, Bouygues.

A noted aspect of the project was working alongside outdoor advertising specialists, JCDecaux. This involved discussion and agreement to relocate existing advertising outside the tunnels. This meant the lighting schemes could be consistent, without any unnecessary distraction.

Each tunnel now has its own defined lighting scheme. Bespoke lighting solutions were in place to allow highway lighting to be integrated without any long-term maintenance issues.

‘I’ve worked with a lot of designers over the years, but never have I felt so much a part of the design process as I did working with Michael Grubb Studio’ project manager Steve Wong told Lux.


Schools and community groups played a key role in the design workshops which came up with the lighting solutions to the five underpasses
The local community was involved in the development of designs for projections and animated scenes in the underpasses.


  • The Lighting for Transport and Infrastructure conference is one of a range of events taking place as part of the LuxLive 2018 exhibition at London ExCeL. The show is open on Wednesday 14 November and Thursday 15 November 2018. See the full programme HERE.


Photographer: Mike Massaro