Sunset Walk, UK

July 25, 2017

In a perfect blend of architectural and decorative lighting, Lighting Design International pieced together a lighting scheme that evokes the very namesake of Milton Keyne’s Sunset Walk shopping mall.

Shopping mall consumers want their overall experience to be one of visual stimulation and luxury. This was the premise behind the refurbishment of Sunset Walk at Centre MK in Milton Keynes, UK, by British architects Rawls & Co. Combined with a well-designed lighting concept delivered by designer Graham Rollins at Lighting Design International (LDI), the overall scheme incorporates strong design elements and a level of detail that makes the refurbishment stand out from the crowd. Unique in its design, Centre MK is a Grade-II listed building that was originally recognised for its use of daylit arcades, elegant steel framed design and a mirrored exterior façade. It was hailed as a ground breaking design when it opened in 1979 and retains its architectural principals today.

The shopping centre is 1km long and 116m wide, and houses over 200 stores, with the refurbishment covering just less than a quarter of the mall’s overall circulation.

LDI was invited to work on the project by Rawls & Co following a previously successful collaboration on another mall retail project. Rollins told darc: “For this project, the brief was consistent and clear from the very start, enabling LDI to develop a clear lighting strategy.”

The design enhances daytime and evening ambiance, comfort and wayfinding by smoothing and balancing the transitions from natural to artificial lighting, as customers move around the centre during the day, and as the daylit arcades transition to night.

Lumen depreciation and fitting maintenance had left large contrasts between the high ceiling daylit bright arcades, and lower ceiling artificially illuminated areas during the day. This was one area the LDI scheme had to address to achieve better balance and more apparent brightness to the lower ceilings. Conversely, during the evening, the higher ceiling areas were not as luminous as the lower ceiling areas, due to lighting throw distance, and difficult maintenance access to the fittings at high level.

While providing scene controlled balanced lighting was a prerequisite to the actual design, it was also important for the final lighting scheme to provide a touch of glamour and interest, elevating the retail experience beyond standard shopping centre expectations. The scheme intended to enhance the appearance and appreciation of the refurbished zone, making it a destination within the centre as a whole.

LDI paid special attention to the entrance atriums to provide a strong visual presence for the centre when viewed from a distance to entice shoppers.

Grand gold finished geometric ‘kites’ were proposed by the architect to emphasise the large volume entrance atriums, and to bring identity and presence to the centre from the adjacent roads and paths. “The architect’s vision for the project had

always included a sea of hexagons and they needed a lighting designer to develop this concept while technically designing these fittings,” said Rollins. “The decorative vision needed developing into a holistic architectural lighting scheme to provide the correct lighting levels, balance and surface illumination.”

The kites lead the visitor from the high ceiling atrium through to the lower ceiling mall, where their golden tone is echoed in the bespoke mirrored gold hexagonal ceiling lights. A total of 960 hexagon lights were installed throughout the mall, to lead the customer through the newly refurbished areas, while providing uplight and downlight along with visual interest to the space.

The hexagons were developed by LDI in conjunction with Mike Stoane Lighting, and come in three styles; 180mm deep uplighting only, 80mm deep uplighting only and 180mm uplighting and downlighting. These three hexagon styles are swathed in a seemingly random pattern throughout the mall circulation, providing a sculpted landscape of mirrored gold and light to the ceiling. The hexagons in conjunction with beam concealed linear uplighting from ACDC ensure the ceiling plane is bright and fresh during the day, in comparison to the daylight in Sunset Walk and the entrance atriums.

Mike Stoane’s uplighting of these structures using bespoke track mounting spotlight systems provide high contrast dramatic warm white lighting to the kites from the perimeter columns. 2,700K was selected to bring out the kites’ rich gold finish against the 3,000K lighting used for other lights in the project. A special bar mounting system was developed to clamp to the column, allowing maximum fitting adjustability without invasive fixings on the listed columns. An array of large Moooi Raimond pendants were also used to provide sparkle and reflection against the gold finish of the kites and polished beaten metal ceiling panels.

Naturally this installation didn’t come without its challenges, as Rollins explained: “The main challenge was designing such a large number of decorative hexagonal pendants, which would need to be simple and easy to install, while exuding glamour and quality. The mirrored gold stainless steel finish brought durability and elegance, tying the fitting into the architectural finishes. Through three rounds of mockups, the pendant suspension and lighting characteristics were focused to ensure high quality light and functional standards.

As the pendants are so abundant, and constructed from mirrored gold stainless steel, their loading on the ceiling was significant. The team was not able to reinforce the plasterboard ceiling with ply due to fire loadings, and hence specialist plasterboard fixings were reviewed and pull tested to ensure the installation method.”

The hexagons provide the majority of functional and decorative lighting through the centre of the mall halls, and are supplemented by DAL deep cone visual performance X161 downlighters to the high traffic perimeter walkways. The lighting is controlled by a Helvar architectural dimming system, enabling LDI and the client to tailor each space to react to the amount of daylight, at different times of the day or year through an astronomical time clock.

The control system scenes are automatic and save energy, while enabling the lighting intensity to be adjusted for better synergy between daylight and artificial light. As a trained product designer, Rollins found a different challenge in his designs for Sunset Walk: “It was a great opportunity to work on such a large number of bespoke luminaires. The considerations when designing towards such a large number of fittings are quite different, to when working on a single bespoke feature. I really enjoyed considering the installation method, maintenance aspects, time of installation and overall wattage and performance of the hexagons. I feel they work really well to bring the wow factor to the lighting scheme as a whole.”

In this intelligent cooperation between architectural and decorative lighting, customers to Sunset Walk shopping mall are met with more than they could have imagined, as they effortlessly navigate the space under the guidance of light.