When working to regenerate a piece of infrastructure vital to a locale, drawing from the rich history of its surrounding area can elevate the restoration from standard to masterful. When taking inspiration from history, however, designers must remember to take heed of the importance of functionality – if a design is no longer fit for purpose it will be rendered useless, no matter how historically respectful and aesthetically pleasing.  

UK lighting design consultancy Michael Grubb Studio was recently tasked to provide the creative vision and design capability for new tunnel lighting at Lambeth’s Black Prince Road, located in Central London. Lambeth remains under Royal ownership to this day thanks to the eldest son of Edward the III, Edward the Black Prince, who lived in the district in the 14th century. 

The Black Prince’s Ruby, one of the oldest parts of the UK’s Crown Jewels, provided Michael Grubb Studio with the inspiration for their chosen design. Grubb and his team referenced the gemstone by depicting its crystallisation with the aid of a 52-metre custom red LED strip. Grubb says the lighting “reflected off a hammered aluminium panel onto a polycarbonate protector with vinyl custom graphics applied.” 

Michael Grubb Studio’s unique design was realised with the support of Schréder UK. “Samples were produced and used in an experimentation phase which looked at the different materials and light sources that would create the desired effect,” explains Grubb. Once implemented, the desired effect was transformative for the road – it is now illuminated in a rich ruby red colour; simultaneously pleasing to the eye and functional for drivers passing through. 

Functionality mixed with a dash of innovation went a long way in bypassing a major hurdle faced by the studio when it was time to install the new luminaires. “The tunnel walls were old, uneven and in a state of disrepair, and the structure was very delicate”, Grubb says. 

“27 LED handrails, chosen for their small size and photometric performance, were built into the base of the red strip in order to provide the desired lighting levels needed on the road” – an approach that had never been taken before for street lighting projects, but that proved highly useful for integration into a somewhat fragile structure. 

Appreciating the historical significance of the road while ensuring the lighting was appropriately fitted and managed made for a challenging design process, yet Michael Grubb Studio certainly rose to the occasion. Gaining design approval from key stakeholders and being crowned DARC Awards 2018 winner reflects Grubb’s success in leading his team to creating a lighting scheme that was transformative for Black Prince Road, both functionally and aesthetically. 

Michael Grubb is in town on the 27th of March for the Light·Space·Design summit along with other talented design names including BVN’s Laurie Aznavoorian, Antony DiMase of DiMase Architects, and Creative Director of Ramus Illumination Bruce Ramus.