Multi-award-winning lighting design practice Michael Grubb Studio was commissioned by Torbay Council to develop ‘Lightplay’, a new, permanent, lit interactive route along the seafront and the Royal Terrace Gardens.
This project was funded as part of the Torquay Towns Fund investment from the Government’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, to encourage visitors to enjoy the gardens and the beautiful space. This was a community-led initiative, as the local residents, businesses and students will be the most frequent visitors to the gardens, it was important that they had a sense of agency over the look and feel of the attraction.

The Royal Terrace Gardens are a popular tourist attraction set along the picturesque coastline, frequented by locals and tourists alike. The overall concept devised by Michael Grubb Studio was to encourage visitors to enjoy the gardens and bring a sense of health, happiness, and enjoyment that comes with the warmth of evening light. The aim was to use the lighting design to extend the notion of sunset and create a warm and welcoming environment for visitors.

The main elements are composed of step lighting, cliff floodlighting and bespoke artist designed columns that create a holistic experience for the gardens, encouraging people to pause and enjoy their surroundings as well as providing a safer environment. The combined work forms a warm welcoming environment to walk, meet and play.

Michael Grubb Studio collaborated with visual artist Anouk Mercier in partnership with Torquay Museum to develop a series of interactive lighting columns to form beacons and create pools of light with integrated projections along the lower pathway inspired by the museum’s collections.

Engagement and feedback from local residents provided a selection of references that form part of the surface design for the columns. The importance of the natural environmental themes, particularly celebrating Torbay’s UNESCO Global Geopark designation and exceptional geological and natural environment play a key creative framework.

Back lit, laser cut forms with the columns, ranging from corals and seaweed to birds, form a fine tracery articulating the lower pathway. Gobo projections onto the walkway of selected designs form playful dynamic punctation points.

The illuminated staircase, in an array of colours, leads to a new viewing platform with impressive sea views. The use of warm colours through the scheme creates pools of light in which to bask and play.

Michael Grubb Studio was proud to be involved in this project to restore the Royal Terrace Gardens and bring them back to life. The studio is thrilled to have worked with such a beautiful space and on a community-led initiative.

Lightplay was conceived and curated by cultural producers Ginkgo Projects. Electrical contractors Drew and Co formed part of the project team, working collaboratively with the creative team and suppliers to install the lighting in a live working environment.

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