Burlington Arcade – UK


Location:                        Mayfair, London, UK

Lighting Design:             Speirs + Major

Client:                             Meyer Bergman & Thor Equities

Architect:                        Blair Associates Architects

Photography:                  © James Newton

acdc products:                Micro


Burlington Arcade is a Grade II listed shopping arcade dating from 1819, located in the heart of Mayfair.   The longest and most beautiful covered shopping street in Britain, the Burlington Arcade has been heralded as an historic and architectural masterpiece and a true luxury landmark in London.  It was the retail destination in Victorian London favoured by royalty and the cream of British society and even set its own “rules of conduct” many of which are still upheld today by the infamous Beadles, the smallest private police force in existence.

The arcade’s history runs parallel to the development of artificial lighting; initially gas lit, the arcade was subsequently illuminated by incandescent lighting and latterly discharge lighting.  The unfortunate consequence of these many changes was not only the loss of the historic fixtures and the original lit appearance of the arcade, but additionally each iteration had left its own legacy in terms of conduits, cabling and defunct equipment.

Project brief

The arcade was purchased in 2010 by a joint venture comprising two international specialist retail real estate investors, Meyer Bergman and Thor Equities, whose aim was to physically restore the iconic property and reinstate the historic space as a global luxury shopping destination.  To help deliver this vision, Speirs + Major were commissioned to redesign the lighting of the arcade, working alongside heritage architectural specialists Blair Associates.

The lighting brief aimed to raise the arcade’s profile as a tourist destination by sensitively restoring the appearance of the arcade as well as providing infrastructure to support events.

The key aim of the project was to restore the arcade to its original design and its former glory as Britain’s most historical retail destination.  With the removal of the existing low hanging modern ceiling lights which, opened up the unobstructed and original view of the arches down the full length of the arcade for the first time in over 100 years.  A specific part of the client brief was to provide a more natural lighting solution that would accentuate the building’s magnificent architectural detailing.

This required the lighting to have a minimal physical impact. In addition, stripping back the large quantity of exposed light fittings and cabling and replacing it, where possible, with concealed fittings and wiring infrastructure.

The lighting scheme also had to address a number of important practical considerations. It had to operate on a reduced total load compared to the previous installation, which was already very energy efficient. This was driven both by a desire to improve the sustainability of the scheme and by increased demands from elsewhere on a limited electrical supply to the building.

Speirs + Major worked to reduce the maintenance required, not only for the cost benefits, but also to protect the long term appearance of the installation by reducing the chance of fitting focuses being changed.

A bright and attractive space was created which revealed and highlighted the sites unique architecture, drawing attention to the shop frontages, whilst concealing the fittings and wiring as much as possible

Speirs + Major’s solution

Dedicated uplighting was key to improving the appearance of the arcade interior and involved Speirs + Major working with acdc to develop a new miniature, linear LED lighting product.  Andrew Howis from Speirs + Major explains “we have worked with acdc on a number of bespoke projects, and had confidence that they would be able to meet the brief.  acdc is small enough to be able to develop and manufacture a new product in a short time frame, but large enough to be able to handle a project of this size.”

The initial request by Speirs + Major was for a linear luminaire, similar to acdc’s existing Fino product.  The special product needed to include adjustable barn doors to allow precise light control.  The product would also need tunable white LEDs. The current Fino extrusion was too narrow to allow for this, so a new unique extrusion and PCB was designed to incorporate this.  Numerous design proposals were exchanged between Speirs + Major and acdc, ensuring they received exactly what they had in mind.

Some of the first design proposals included features which are now present in the final product, such as independently adjustable barn doors which slide around the inner extrusion.  It was agreed that angle increments would be implemented; previous designs created by machining meant that fine increments were difficult to achieve so acdc worked with a supplier to utilize a laser engraving process on the end caps – a process which acdc had never used previously.

As the product was under development when lighting trials were being conducted on site, a mock-up of the final product was created; this used a standard Fino extrusion with new end caps and sheet metal barn doors to simulate the lit effect of the final product.

Andrew added, “The resulting product does exactly what was needed on the project, delivering a wash of white light but in a controlled manner.   Micro is a highly flexible product: it offers the power and much of the beam control available in larger lensed linear fixtures, but from a miniature fitting size.  It will find all sorts of different applications in architectural lighting where concealing fittings is difficult but beam control is important”

All of the arcade lighting is programmed to change automatically through the day. During the daytime, uplighting and downlighting are only used when there is insufficient daylight, with colour temperature being used selectively according to the season. During the course of the evening, these main lighting elements progressively dim and warm, allowing the detailing of the architecture to be revealed by the spotlighting.

For events, an interface has been provided which allows external contractors to plug in their DMX lighting desk and to take control over every lighting element individually to give them total creative freedom over the look of the arcade. As soon as they unplug their equipment, the lighting is restored to its previous settings.

Variable colour temperature was built into the system to allow the appearance to be adapted to suit the daylight conditions. 4000K white light is used on dull summer days; this balances well with the daylight, making the artificial light almost imperceptible. On winter’s day, a warmer temperature closer to 3500K is used to provide a more inviting appearance in the lower ambient light conditions. Throughout the year, after dark, the colour temperature is warmed progressively down to 2700K and dimmed to evoke the softness of gas light, the means by which the arcade was first lit.

After the Burlington Arcade project, Speirs + Major liaised with acdc on slight improvements to the product.

The bracket was modified to include extra angle increments (stating 30°, 60°, 120° and 150° markings, and not just 0° and 90°) and an extra hole was added in the bracket to ensure the stability of the product when installed.  Each barn door and the main extrusion can be independently locked off using simple grub screws.  The final design allows for exact lighting control, with angle increments on the 360° rotation of the LED extrusion, as well as precision control of each barn door which are also marked with angle increments.



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