Birmingham’s Grand Central; the retail and F&B destination, integrated with the largest transport hub in the UK outside of London, has recently completed a £2m upgrade to the New Street Mall by Hammerson. The refresh works include the creation of an engaging, vibrant and bespoke lighting scheme by HFM Architects & The Light Lab.

HFM’s approach to the brief to enliven the mall experience was driven through the necessity to reconnect the prominent strand between the High Street and the New Street Mall, within the centre. Working with the specialist team at The Light Lab, HFM introduced a sinuous, dynamic and programmable lighting scheme, to better the placemaking identity of the space.

A part of Birmingham’s important scientific history can be attributed back to the discovery of the three-dimensional helical nature of DNA by Maurice Wilkins. It was these natural waveforms that HFM used as design precedent granting the space a new, and more defined character. The scheme is split in to two phases, where the first, provides an installation piece to signify a grand arrival from the high street, into the second, where a weaving skyscape forms the genetic fabric of the mall.

In the double-height atrium entrance, the installation of a striking bespoke feature by The Light Lab, entitled ‘The Helix’, resembles an unravelling strand of DNA. The ‘base-pairs’ are integrated with the latest SPI LED technology that allows for infinite possibilities of colour, movement and interactivity to welcome visitors to the destination.

For the initial phase of the project, our team fabricated bespoke Spectraglass fins, as pioneered at Penn Station, New York, to create a 40m long undulating, digitally animated canvas. Easily programmable with intelligent lighting control by Pharos Architectural Controls Ltd, supplied, installed & programmed by Phillip Grice of Architainment Lighting Ltd. Artistic content provided by light artists Miriam Sleeman & Tom Sloane of Tiller Studio.

These lighting installations have refreshed the visibility of the destination from the High Street and along New Street, creating a dynamic, expressive and social mall, further cementing Grand Central’s position as one of Birmingham’s most iconic landmarks.

Phil Riley, Director at The Light Lab, added: “We relished the chance to bring our experience in large scale architectural lighting features to enhance the retail experience at Grand Central; working to realise the innovative concepts of HFM Architects to create something very unique and enhance the public experience on entering the destination. The complex structure and size of the piece brought its own challenges in both manufacture and installation, which made the project particularly interesting and enjoyable and we hope that it gives pleasure to the people of Birmingham for many years to come.”


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