The Grade I Royal Liver Building is an iconic building in Liverpool. It is one of the Three Graces and is part of Liverpool’s UNESCO World Heritage Maritime Mercantile City.

One of the main intentions of the façade lighting scheme was to rejuvenate the surrounding waterfront area, turning it into a destination for locals and visitors during the hours of darkness.

Before establishing the lighting concept, a site survey was completed to align key viewpoints with the visual prominence of architectural elements and to determine how and where lighting should be applied to the building fabric. Walking around Liverpool, it was recognised how visible the building is from across the city and that the area can be enlivened by using the site as a beacon and attracting people from afar. The research process also revealed how fundamental the Liver Birds and clock towers were to Liverpool’s maritime heritage. Highlighting these dominant elements became paramount to the scheme.

The building blocks of the lighting concept were unifying the elevations, playing with shade and light, anchoring the building to the ground, rediscovering the majesty and form during darkness and interacting with the public. Through mock-ups, it was decided that a timeless, sympathetic white light mode would be the most dominant lighting scenario. Four different shades of white light were applied across the building:

1. capturing the oxidised copper colouring of the Liver Birds
2. the backlit clock faces to contrast with the rest of the clock tower
3. the white cupolas with a halo of light
4. to compliment the Portland stone facing

Across the lighting scheme there are nearly 400 luminaires which were carefully positioned and installed in accordance with the Listed Building Consent requirements. All of the luminaires have RGBW LED modules to harness complete flexibility with dynamic, colour change or static, white light. Sandwiched by the white light mode, daily light shows have been narrated, programmed and commissioned by the team via storyboards to interpret local events, calendar events and different seasons with light. There have been seven types of shows including the inaugural Flight show, Bonfire night, Remembrance Day, Autumn, Winter, Christmas and New Year.

The switch on was witnessed by crowds of people and was included as part of Liverpool’s annual River of Light festival (RoL). A local composer wrote a sound-piece to accompany the light show for this event. The show was called Flight and focused on the building waking up again, stories behind the Liver Birds and a celebration of the new chapter in the life of the Royal Liver Building.

By using the façade as a story-telling canvas, this has linked the original time-piece purpose of the clock towers into a 21st century digital format with a new dynamic visitor experience. Each night there are people waiting to see the light show and social media is now flooded with photographs of the new scheme. A new life has been breathed into the Royal Liver Building.

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