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  •   A.C. Special Projects Provides Classic Lighting for Somerset House

A.C. Special Projects Provides Classic Lighting for Somerset House

3rd July 2009

A.C. Special Projects Ltd. has provided a state of the art architectural lighting and control system for the Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court at the heart of Somerset House in London. Located between The Strand and the River Thames, Somerset House is a spectacular neo-classical building with one of the most architecturally stunning courtyards in the capital.

A major arts and cultural centre with a year-round programme of large-scale contemporary exhibitions and events, each summer 55 fountains dance in the courtyard and the extraordinary space is host to a series of major open-air concerts and film screenings. In winter, the courtyard is transformed into one of London’s most popular ice rinks.

With the courtyard providing entertainment on an increasingly grand scale, the existing floodlighting system was becoming inadequate and time consuming to maintain. As a result, the venue had resorted to hiring in lighting systems for events, which was proving expensive.

Somerset House Director, Gwyn Miles, commissioned Lighting Designer Patrick Woodroffe to develop a contemporary scheme that would transform the space at night with a classic warm white illumination of the building’s facades. The contract to supply, install and programme the lighting system for the new scheme was awarded to A.C. Special Projects, who had previously worked with Gwyn and Patrick on lighting the grand architecture of the John Madejski Garden at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Following lighting trials, the combination of red, green, blue and amber (RGBA) colour-mixing LEDs was found to provide the best warm white lighting. In addition, by utilising RGBA lighting fixtures, the battens provide the additional potential to illuminate the building facades in colour, adding a theatrical element to corporate and themed events.

Anolis RGBA LED battens mounted in the lightwells below the courtyard level uplight the West, East & South facades of the building and backlight the columns of the three facade balconies. RGBA spotlights fill in the areas above the doorways. Careful attention was paid to providing a discreet installation, as Somerset House offers guided tours of the lightwells that have considerable historic interest.  For The Strand entrance, “A.C.” provided bespoke lengths of RGBA LED strip lighting enclosed in custom manufactured frosted tubes to uplight the vestibules vaulted ceiling and the capitals of the four central columns. In addition, various warm white LED fixtures highlight the courtyard statue and flagpole, with RGBA spots lighting the two clock towers.  Flexible LED strips were installed at the base of main roof dome above the South wing of the building to give a stunning halo effect.

When it came to programming the lighting scheme, Patrick Woodroffe was keen to use a full lighting console and then transfer the show over to a more compact, PC-based control system for playback. A.C. Special Projects specified the Jands Vista control system, which utilises exactly the same visual interface and controls across the range. This enabled the show to be programmed on a Vista console and then seamlessly transferred to a Vista PC system for playback. In addition, the Vista’s intuitive visually based user interface and innovative timeline editing enables the venue’s technical team to have a complete picture of each show. The Vista is remote controlled from an AMX panel located in the main building. It is programmed to trigger presets for various shows, including a selection of bold and subtle static colour looks, contrasting colours and effects chases ranging from gentle ripples across the building to waves and stepping blocks.

Another challenge of the installation was how to integrate the existing lighting power and distribution control equipment so that all the architectural lighting, including the ornate courtyard lamp posts, would be brought under the control of the Vista PC.  The remote location of some of the existing and newly installed control equipment meant that a suitable Wireless DMX system needed to be installed. A.C. Special Projects utilised the City Theatrical range to ensure that the many frequencies being utilised in the centre of London would not interfere with the DMX signal. In addition, they custom manufactured a small rack mounted computer and distribution system containing the Vista PC and a Chroma-Q® A/B Switch, to provide the facility for selected touring shows to take control of the new lighting.

High-profile events to benefit from the new exterior lighting scheme include a series of one-night summer concerts by Grace Jones, Lilly Allen, The Ting Tings, Pendulum, Athlete and other leading artists.

The information contained herein is correct at the time of printing, however as we are constantly refining our product range we reserve the right to change the specification without notice. E&OE.

The rights and ownership of all trademarks are recognised. Chroma-Q is a trademark of A.C. Entertainment Technologies Ltd.