In May 2016, Brent Council approved a new Masterplan for Wembley Park, one of Europe’s biggest regeneration projects. The project, led by the developer Quintain was to transform the area around the national stadium from a world class events destination to a thriving London neighbourhood, integrating homes, shops and workspaces.
As part of the project, Olympic Way, the route leading from the tube station to the stadium, and the Olympic Steps were completely redesigned to improve accessibility for all visitors and to create more outdoor space for a thriving neighbourhood.
Schréder worked with Quintain, the architects Dixon Jones, the principal contractor Volker Fitzpatrick and lighting designers Speirs Major to deliver a customised lighting solution that would ensure a safe and engaging landscape.
A pluridisciplinary project to create an outstanding public realm
Dixon Jones drew up the architectural concept and Speirs Major designed the lighting concept. The design process involved weekly design meetings coordinated by Volker Fitzpatrick when the designers and relevant stakeholders would attend, develop and detail the design. An excellent co-ordination and effective communication with all stakeholders especially around the interface of different elements (for example, the column interface with the deck) was paramount to the success of the project. All parties worked to the customer’s BIM Execution Plan which is key for larger projects and document control and management was via Viewpoint for Projects.
In terms of lighting alone the brief was ‘in brief!’ for white light in the main area and RGBW finials, with complete control. The fittings on each column are controlled in groups via CMS nodes on top, with the finials and handrail controlled by a connected cloud based DMX solution.
Bespoke lighting columns to enhance the experience and identity
A total of 34 bespoke, multi-purpose columns now run the length of Olympic Way. At 13.5m tall, each column holds an illuminated banner, and supports five different custom-made projector types along a 4.5m outreach arm, along with dedicated banner lighting, RGBW finials and futureproof provision for beyond lighting capabilities many of which have been used by the client from day one (WAPs, Footfall cameras, CCTV).
The lighting can be dimmed remotely to vary the balance of distribution, creating different moods and ambiences, while the dedicated banner lighting evenly illuminates the banners, which are during ‘normal’ times changed over 50 times a year!
On top of this, there are a further seven 16m columns and nine 12m on the deck area outside the stadium, while new LED handrail lighting (360 separate lighting points) has been installed on the steps leading up to the stadium. Lighting within the ceiling of the undercroft beneath the deck has also been incorporated improving the ambiance and safety for all who use.
The lighting is adaptive, the need to be able to respond to massively changing densities of users, from the vast crowds expected on high-profile match days through to much smaller numbers of residents who use the route and surrounding area day in and day out.
It’s the whole public space that takes you from Bobby Moore Bridge right the way up to Wembley Stadium. I took my son there and you cross that whole urban environment, as a fan, to get to the stadium. As a resident, this is also very much part of your main community and social space within the area.
Much more than a lighting column
These columns are designed to take an additional load of 1,700kg for future attachments, which is a significant extra load that had to be considered from the start along with the need for fixing points, power and data points. It took a lot of back-and-forth design and development to get a solution all stakeholders were happy with. There are a lot more elements that have been designed into the columns than you would normally expect from a ‘typical’ lighting solution. Most are cleverly concealed to the observer but provide valuable futureproofing and additional functionality for many years to come. Within the column, as well as lighting, there is provision for speakers behind bespoke doors, data connectivity for cameras, sensors, wireless access points and footfall cameras.
The structures on the deck also host traffic signal cameras (plus all associated traffic signal equipment internally), as well as microphone stations and speakers.
The drainage on the deck even runs directly through the base of the columns, which sounded crazy initially, but on review is a very neat architectural solution which has worked despite initial reservations. The co-ordination required to get these columns installed was phenomenal and an amazing team effort.
The 13.5m columns have been designed with built-in power and data provision along with numerous hidden fixing points. This means the banner arms can be removed and replaced by digital media screens if the customer chooses to do so in the future.
Smart lighting for full flexibility
For a project as high-profile as this, effective collaboration between the various multiple parties and stakeholders involved was a key element to deliver the lighting concept with a structurally sound structure.
As the amount of people using the space can vary greatly, the lighting is dimmed to over 50% during normal usage and even more during times of low usage. The handrails, for example, normally run at 20% but can deliver up to 200 lux on the steps approaching the stadium when turned up fully.
This gives Wembley Park full flexibility for different functions. They have many different lighting scenarios to remotely manage the installation and set different scenes for different uses without physically having to reconfigure. When trying to move tens of thousands of people safely down the steps, they have the flexibility to adjust the timings or ramp it up as needed.
The flexible system also gives Wembley Park the ability to remotely switch the emergency lighting on. If something goes wrong or there is an incident, even during normal operation, the customer can turn everything on remotely in real-time.
As a lighting professional, you have to put yourself into that space and think about how you engage with it. I think, as an industry, we are guilty sometimes of designing and providing stuff that ticks the box according to what the standard says we should be delivering.
But, actually, we don’t think often enough about how we feel in that space and how we engage with that space and what the purpose of that space is. That, for me, is one of the most important things that, as an industry, we maybe need to get to grips with, and something that has very much been achieved within this space.
Yes, it is about connecting the station to the stadium but it is also about providing an engaging space at the heart of a community, about connecting the community to the space. The structures we have provided, and the engagement we have had, has been to facilitate the connection of that infrastructure to that wider public realm, and that is cool.
Award winning project
The new lighting has certainly created an engaging social space for the local community as well as an enhanced experience for visiting fans. In fact such was the success of the project, it won the Build Back Better Platinum Award in autumn 2021. These awards recognise and celebrate innovation in industry products, projects, initiatives and business models.
In presenting the award, the judges described the light as “having great visual impact and bringing safety, functionality and beauty”.