Light transforms brutalist viaduct into student hang-out

A BRUTALIST concrete viaduct at the University of Sheffield has been transformed into a colourful gathering space for students thanks to an innovative lighting scheme.

A networked lighting control system schedules four operational modes reflecting the daily usage; winter afternoon, early evening, late evening and curfew. Each mode balances the contribution of white light and colour sequencing effects with the anticipated activity.

Often as busy at 4am as it is at 4pm, the Concourse is at the heart of campus life. Used for events as an extension to the adjacent Students’ Union, the Concourse is bisected by a 50-year-old concrete viaduct supporting a dual carriageway above.

Completed in 1970, the viaduct was originally constructed to raise the A57 bisecting the central campus above the concourse level; removing the barrier to free pedestrian movement of students.

Historically the area under the road had been an uninviting transient ‘non-space’.
The brief to independent consultants Arup was to create a space that encourages students to linger, facilitate external event, extend the use beyond 5pm and celebrate the 1960s brutalist architecture.

The clean lines and texture of the structure demanded a bold approach. Colours have been carefully selected to contrast surfaces and compliment materiality.

Diffuse white downlight supplements scenes at times where strong saturated colours may affect the occupants’ experience, providing a neutral spectrum without compromising visual impact. General circulation is lit using focused building mounted luminaires along the main routes. Trees are uplit and lighting integrated into benches to define the concourse boundaries, aiding wayfinding and removing areas of deep shadow; contributing to an increased sense of safety and security.

A 3D laser scan of the bridge structure was taken to define the double curved form and inform the design of the luminaire. A custom housing (accommodating a standard light source) was designed to graze the soffit and deliver supplementary diffuse white downlight.

A networked lighting control system schedules four operational modes reflecting the daily usage; winter afternoon, early evening, late evening and curfew.

Each mode balances the contribution of white light and colour sequencing effects with the anticipated activity.

A different colour pallette is provided for each day of the week, representing the branding of the student event within the Union. The control system is mounted on the university network, allowing scene selection and reprogramming via staff anywhere on site (or remotely via VPN). Several scheduled and on demand scenes are pre-programmed to celebrate specific events such as the Intramural Varsity matches.

Since opening the space below the viaduct has been used to host external events including music gigs, launch events and external bar to great success, a DMX merger switch allows the Union events team to connect a mixing desk so that viaduct becomes an external venue in its own right.

The designers who worked on this project are Dan Lister, Justin Boyd and David Battersby of Arup.

 

  • Learn more about the transformational power of light at LuxLive 2019, taking place at LuxLive 2019. The exhibition takes place on Wednesday 13 November and Thursday 14 November 2018 at ExCeL London. Entry is free if you pre-register HERE.

 

Pictures: Midi Photography/Arup

 

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