‘Lark’ Is a dynamic colour changing lighting and sound installation at Larkshall Road Underpass, Chingford, London E4.

Larkshall Road underpass sits on an East/West axis connecting suburban areas on the outskirts of London and borders Epping Forest. The footpath is a vital link that was previously used cautiously by the community after dark since the overall feeling was intimidating, dirty and unloved.

Our approach was to create an atmosphere that would be unexpected in this context, and which would be uplifting, playful and calm. We were thinking about the position of the site within the landscape and the relationship of the footpath to the railway line and forest. Our aim was to bring some of the natural spectacle of the surrounding landscape into the underpass. These ideas informed our decision to abstractly refer to landscape and nature using light and sound.

We started by colour-sampling photographs and paintings of skies, looking for the nuanced colour details of sunsets and sunrises. These samples were translated to programmed lighting scenes, with each scene informed by a particular place or image. We used a palette that refers directly to these colours, using long slow fades to create imperceptible shifts and subtle details.

The scheme uses a combination of light sensors and timed programming to detect light levels and switch programmes. During daylight hours brighter pastels balance the interior lighting levels and as twilight settles in it switches over to deeper more intense hues.

On the footpath solar powered dots are used to lead the eye along the approaching paths. Fitted with bat hats, they minimize disruption to wildlife and form a series of centrally positioned way finding points that light up as lux levels drop.

Within the underpass native birdsong softens and relaxes the soundscape, acting as a subtle reminder of the connection to the wider context of Epping Forest and the transitional space of the overhead railway line. The birdsong is played out intermittently through speakers housed within the lighting enclosures and are positioned to mitigate disturbance of wildlife by minimizing sound leak.

The piece was commissioned by Create, London for Waltham Forest Council for their as part of arts and culture program aimed at revitalizing the borough by commissioning public art and design that would have long lasting impact on local communities and their surrounding neighbourhoods. The piece was commissioned in February 2020 and was completed in November 2020.

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