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  •   A.C. Lighting Supply Lighting System for Portsmouth Spinnaker Tower

A.C. Lighting Supply Lighting System for Portsmouth Spinnaker Tower

16th September 2005

A.C. Lighting's Special Projects Division has supplied and programmed fixtures for the new Portsmouth Spinnaker Tower, which opens this summer.

The Spinnaker Tower is a new national icon based on the south coast. Soaring 170m above Portsmouth Harbour, the sea mark is the UK's tallest publicly accessible building outside of London and offers visitors a unique 'window on the sea' from its three 100m, 105m and 110m observation decks. It is tall, elegant and sculptural in design with two large white sweeping arcs that give the tower its distinctive spinnaker sail design.

The tower is a UK Millennium Commission sponsored project in conjunction with Portsmouth City Council [PCC], which aims to transform the waterfront at Portsmouth and Gosport. Forming the focal point of the Portsmouth Harbour Renaissance Project, the tower is expected to attract thousands of visitors to the area every year and will provide a shining beacon of light to vessels destined for the harbour.

As the main contractor for the design/build construction, Mowlem plc engaged Mark Hensman of Equation Lighting to create the tower's unique exterior lighting design which features two distinct elements. Firstly the white light projected onto the rear concrete legs and the lower shaft below the cruciform to the front, and secondly dynamic coloured light projected within the arcs and to the front of the main Spire.

Following a competitive tender, A.C.'s Special Projects Division were awarded the contract to supply, terminate and commission all exterior colour changing architectural lighting fixtures that had been specified by Equation as part of their design. The company assisted the electrical contractor, Mowlem Engineering, in specifying the show lighting and architectural control systems, then supplied, programmed and commissioned the two systems.

The external show lighting system consists of an Artistic License Commonsense processor receiving and responding to wind speed, tidal and time information and an ETC Expression lighting playback controller (LPC) distributing control via a 'Towerwide' DMX system, to re-create the 6 show designs.

The show lighting system is operated using two Unison CMEi processors connected to Smart Pack dimmers, which provide the user interface via switch stations on each viewing deck for controlling the show sequence for all internal and external fixtures. These switch stations also control the interior architectural fittings at each level. A master Unison LCD control station allows the whole tower to be operated from the Central Control Room.

WYSIWYG was used to pre-programme the system's response to the various inputs of wind, time, and tide. WYSIWYG is also used to monitor and display the control system's current output, allowing an operator to see the lighting state that is being sent to the external show lights represented as a 'real time' 3D model simulation of the tower on a flat panel monitor.

28 Martin Exterior 600 washlights were installed at various positions around the tower to uplight the front and top of the Spire. A further 22 Martin Exterior 200 short throw washlights provide side fill illumination of the arc inner ribs and three viewing decks. 12 Pulsar ChromaStrip LED fixtures have also been installed inside the viewing deck rooms to provide a low level representation of the exterior show lighting. Fixtures were also installed to provide the white light projected on to the rear concrete legs and lower shaft.

The system's 6 selectable shows have been programmed to automatically start at 30 minutes after sunset every day or when selected manually. They can then be programmed to turn off automatically at a time agreed by the operator Heritage and the landlord PCC.

In addition to straightforward shows which turn all fixtures outside the building to static blue or white, a Time show changes the colouring of the tower over 125 minutes through 5 minute intervals. Starting from blue and fading up the tower through red and finally into yellow, when the sequence is complete, the tower fades back to blue and starts again.

For the more complex Wind show, an anemometer feeds wind speed data into the Commonsense, which then outputs MIDI show commands to the LPC. The LPC then alters the colour of the lighting relative to the wind from blue (at no wind), through green, yellow and orange finally to red.

For the final show, A.C. programmed the system with tidal information to enable the controller to fade the tower from blue at low tide to red at high tide, and then back to blue again.

A.C. Special Projects Director Peter Keiderling commented: "It has been a pleasure to work on such an exciting project. Mark Hensman's innovative design really brings the tower to life and is a perfect example of architectural lighting at its very best."

Mowlem brought Equation Lighting and AC Lighting into the project team because of their specialist knowledge of architectural lighting. Their project manager Jon Neale said that "both Equation as designer and AC Lighting as specialist supplier/programmer have worked closely with our electrical division to develop the 'feature' lighting system. From a distance it really does give the Spinnaker Tower a mysterious and ethereal presence on the waterfront at night."