Gasholder Park, a new attraction at London’s King’s Cross
Gasholder Park, a new attraction at London’s King’s Cross, with lighting design by Speirs + Major, took home an Award of Merit of the 34 th Annual International Lighting Design Awards organised by the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD). Gasholder Park is a new public pocket park and event space in King’s Cross, London. This landscaped lawn is ringed by a mirror-polished stainless steel canopy, set within a historic cast-iron gasholder structure. Inspired by the gasholder’s circular form, Speirs + Major generated a holistic lighting concept based on a solar eclipse.
In an eclipse, the form of the moon is revealed by a soft corona of light. To emulate this effect, each of the canopy uprights are uplit from the inside with a narrow beam of cool white light revealing the architectural form in a composition the judges called “pleasantly restrained.” Light is reflected from the canopy back onto the footpath, creating a glowing “corona.” The illusion from a distance is that all light emanates from the corona, reinforcing the sense of enclosure. Although light levels are deliberately kept to a minimum inside the space, lighting integrated into handrails of steps and ramps helps maintain safety.
Once inside the corona, shadowplay and gentle animation enliven the experience of the space. Gentle cyclical cross-fading creates shifts, shadows and sparkle, fully immersing park visitors in the experience. The canopy lighting is subject to twenty minute control cycles, slowly fading from east to west, pausing in darkness inspired by the eclipse, and then a slow west-east fade back up. Combined with the deliberate asymmetry in the design of the uprights, this effect creates dynamic shifts in the shadows and inter-reflections from the polished surfaces, immersing both park and users in a celestial glow. Managed by an astronomical time clock, the timing of the light cycles also changes in accordance with the lunar calendar. The uplighting of the polished canopy uprights presented the biggest challenge for the design team. The beam angle needed to be exceptionally tight to highlight the surface while limiting spill –any deviation from level and perpendicular placement caused the light to miss the surface entirely. Abrushed texture allowed the light to catch the surface on the leading edge. Several mock-ups on and off site were conducted with the client and the architects to test different densities of brushing.
As part of the wider King’s Cross regeneration, the park serves as both landmark and destination, inviting visitors to an otherworldly experience of darkness and light.
Mark Major, IALD
Philip Rose, IALD
Andrew Howis, IALD
Speirs + Major
Bell Phillips Architects
Dan Pearson Studio
Townshend Landscape Architects
Michael J Lonsdale
© James Newton