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Located in the northern residential quarter of the new King’s Cross redevelopment, beside Regents Canal, Gasholder No 8 is the largest of the iconic gasholders that once dominated the skyline at King’s Cross. This magnificent heritage structure has undergone a major offsite restoration and been repurposed as the frame to contain a new public pocket park and event space. Competition winners Bell Phillips Architects worked within the Gasholder, adding a mirror polished stainless steel canopy and a landscaped lawn, to create a tranquil green space for use by local families and the children from the neighbouring school.

With a long standing involvement in the wider Kings Cross regeneration, lighting designers Speirs + Major were engaged to ensure that the new ‘Gasholder Park’ would be as attractive and as usable by night as it is by day.
Design Integrator Philip Rose:
“The lighting is designed to ensure that park users feel safe and secure as natural light fades, but we also wanted the design to make the most of the uniquely juxtaposing materiality and forms of the new park. The circular layout lead us to the idea that we could use light to create both a beautiful night-time landmark, as well as an enlivening immersive experience, inspired by the idea of a solar eclipse. ”.

In an eclipse, the form of the moon is revealed by a soft corona of light, which shifts in intensity and position as the sun and moon move relative to each other. Within the park, each of the canopy uprights are uplit with cool white light on the inside using a very narrow beam that enforces the architectural rhythm. This light reaches the interior of the canopy and is reflected back onto the path, creating a glowing ‘corona effect’ that highlights the circular form and creates a special sense of enclosure.

The historic gasholder frame itself is also uplit with cool white light from the inside. The resulting silhouette is not only highly legible from a distance but also creates the illusion that the all light is emanating from the corona generated by the interior canopy. This in turn reinforces the sense of enclosure, marking the park out as a truly special place to be. As with an eclipse, much of the beauty of the experience lies in how the light animates the form as it moves.

The pavilion lighting is programmed over twenty minute cycles, that begins with all lights on and then sees them cross fading from east to west over three minutes, followed by a pause of two minutes in darkness (full eclipse) and then a slow east to west cross fade back up to full brightness. This apparent movement of the light creates fabulous shifts in the shadows and inter-reflections from the polished surfaces, gently animating both park and users.

The deliberate asymmetry in the design of the uprights further contributes to the shifts in pattern: to maintain privacy for buildings adjacent to the park the uprights in certain sections are set closer together, and then spaced further apart to allow views towards the canal. Over time, the planting designed by Dan Pearson Studio will also contribute changing texture and seasonal variation to the design.

The management of the lighting program is based on an astronomical time clock, with the timing of the light cycles also changing in accordance with the lunar calendar. The light scheme is completed with warm white lighting to the steps and ramps neatly integrated into the handrails to ensure the safety of all visitors to the park and to integrate into the wider public realm.

Project Credits
Client: Argent
Architect: Bell Phillips Architects
Landscape Architect: Dan Pearson Studio (Planting), Townshend Landscape Architects
Lighting Design: Speirs + Major (Mark Major, Philip Rose, Andrew Howis)
Engineer: Arup + Hoare Lea
Main Contractor: Carillion
Electrical Contractor: Michael J Lonsdale
Major Suppliers: Photonstar, We-ef, Mike Stoane Lighting and Control Lighting

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