The Disney Reef at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, UK

The Disney Reef at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, UK

SPACES: Best Landscape Lighting Scheme – Low Budget

The Disney Reef at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital

London, UK

Lighting Design:
Studio EG, UK

Disney and Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital

Norton Mayfield Architects, UK

Main Lighting Suppliers:
Universal Fibre Optics, KKDC, Linea Light Group, acdc


The Disney Reef, a colourful, underwater-themed outdoor play area is positioned in the courtyard of Great Ormond Street children’s Hospital.  The Reef was designed by the Walt Disney Imagineers, in collaboration with the hospital’s Play Team.  The purpose was to creating a place of happiness, distraction and reflection for the young patients and their families.

Studio EG was asked to design a lighting scheme which would enchant the 600+ patients who visit the hospital every day, creating everlasting memories.  The scheme also had to be functional within a children’s hospital, taking into consideration the specific needs, wants, fears and desires of the very special patients.  Various focus groups and consultations were carried out to ensure that we fulfilled these expectations.

The play team requested a teen zone for which Disney created Atlantis.  We noticed that the Atlantis movie had a blue tint throughout.  To differentiate the teen zone without a physical barrier, we proposed bathing this area in blue light.

It was requested that any moving or flickering features be avoided for the more sensitive patients.  The treasure chest has an amber sparkle wheel to give the appearance of shimmering gold, and the clam shell incorporates a cool white slow shimmer.  These subtle yet spellbinding features give real visual interest.

During an early lighting demonstration, a shadow of Peter Pan appeared on the wall of the model.  One of the team pointed it out, and this happy accident sparked an idea to project Peter onto the façade of the hospital.  Peter is the only lighting effect left on overnight and he has become the guardian of the garden.

All Disney characters are lit with hidden spotlights.  The team at propability were dedicated to concealing all of the light fittings from view using theatrical netting, shells and barnacles.

The shipwreck has downlights to the masts, red LEDs inside cannons, a glowing bowsprit lantern, and a hidden spotlight to the seahorse figurehead.

Each of the elements has linear under-lighting to guide navigation around the garden.

We think that the final result speaks for itself.


“Holly was absolutely blown away by the garden, she especially has liked the lights in the evening, and the Peter Pan image, she thinks that’s great!”

Ava – “I think it’s my favourite place in the hospital.  It’s somewhere to hang out with my friends and family, and

other people in the hospital.”

Herdip, the chief nurse at GOSH describes the reef – “When I walked through the doors and saw the reef for the first time, I was absolutely astounded.  It’s purely focused on our children and young people, and is absolutely amazing.  We have interactive screens at different heights.  If you have sensory needs, there are lots of different lights and colours.  I absolutely love it, and I’m sure our children will find it amazing.”