Shakespeare’s New Place, UK
SPACES: Best Landscape Lighting Scheme – High Budget
Shakespeare’s New Place is a commemorative garden built on the site of the house he lived in from 1597 until his death in 1616.
To extend its usability into the hours of darkness, Speirs + Major have created an atmospheric nighttime experience.
Those who visit the site after dark enjoy a journey of discovery created through subtle interplay of light and darkness that reveals the creative vision of garden designers Timothy O’Brien and Chris Wise.
The garden contains the footprint of the home, along with a series of commissioned artworks recalling Shakespeare’s life and work. Drawing inspiration from theatrical techniques, the lighting emphasises the sculptural quality of each of these artefacts through the use of dramatic contrast, with the surrounding landscape acting as though it were a stage. This creates a contrasting duality in the day and nighttime character of the garden – a nod to the blurred distinction between dreams and reality, which have often been a subject in Shakespeare’s plays. The soft landscape is gently revealed, producing a special sense of enclosure, as well as a visual reminder of the creative, informal garden setting. The scheme is predominantly realised at low level, with the exception of selected directional lighting details.
Visitors enter the garden through a majestic bronze gate, drawn to a highlighted screen positioned just inside. Past this, visitors are free to meander and enjoy the artefacts.
The long Golden Garden that connects the Gatehouse with the site of the main house is designed to represent the ‘golden fruits’ of Shakespeare’s life’s work. It contains 38 weather vanes representing his 38 plays. A softly dappled effect reveals the texture and richness of the amber and gold planting, created by downlights positioned on ten of the vanes.
The metaphorical heart of the house is marked with a ring of glowing pleached hornbeams above a circular bench, both of which are lit from beneath. They surround a dramatic sculpture of a windblown bronze tree bending towards a massive shadowed orb. Directional uplighting to this piece emphasises the implied movement and shadowing, intended to signify the force and extent of Shakespeare’s creative power.
In total there are ten artefacts, installations or grouped artworks positioned throughout the site. The lighting for each of these uses individual and integrated lighting details, designed following consultations and tests with each individual artefact creator.
At the garden’s far end, visitors can explore the restored Elizabethan Knot Garden. The lighting focus in this area shifts to a less dramatic, more balanced approach that draws attention to the landscape elements. Bollards light selected pathways and planting, revealing the lush nature of the garden, supplemented by lighting to the perimeter hedge and pergola structure.