Historical hotel reopens with colorful LED-lit ballroom
8 Northumberland Avenue's history is as colorful as the LED luminaires that now illuminate it. Built in 1887, the building operated as a 500-room first-class hotel until 1940, when it was requisitioned by the War Office. The building remained occupied by the Crown—and inaccessible to the public—until 2007, when it underwent a year-long, full-fledged restoration. It finally reopened its doors for general use in 2010, armed with brand new Color Kinetics color-changing LED luminaires in the Old Billiard Room and Ballroom.
Sustainability was a driving force in the venue's restoration, illustrated by an across-the-board push for reduced environmental impact. In order to promote this vision in the lighting arena, designers implemented widespread high-efficiency LED systems—but not before testing out potential products' capabilities. While the building was occupied by the Ministry of Defense, many of its architectural features were under protective wraps. But during restoration, these historic details were unveiled, refurbished, and in need of accentuation by a strategic lighting design. "Rather than relying on modeling, we took samples of the proposed fittings to the site, so the client could get a realistic feel for the lighting," Rowena Preiss, Creative Director for Signify, explained. "In this way, we could see exactly how the lighting would interact with the architecture and also ensure that we were using the right light intensities."
After identifying the ideal luminaires, designers went to work on the basement's Old Billiard Room. The initial LED lights considered by venue operators delivered subpar output, requiring additional uplighting which consumed a significant amount of energy, generated excessive heat, and had high upkeep requirements. But Color Kinetics ColorBlast 12 LED wash lights (now specified with Blast Powercore, RGBW) proved to be a viable and profitable solution.
The Blast luminaires, supplemented by track-mounted Philips StyliD spotlights and a third-party control system, are installed on the walls and offer color-changing uplighting and downlighting. The complete installation produces a near-infinite number of lighting schemes, allowing staff and customers alike to tailor colors to specific areas’ or even program the lights to respond to music and other sounds.
"The ability to interact with the lighting through this playful technology, combined with the delivery of the lighting system, has proved very popular with customers and has had a very positive impact on our business," Director Charles Boyd said.
Because of this success, 8 Northumberland administration decided to apply the LED treatment elsewhere, including offices and other basement spaces to reduce energy consumption. Finally, they introduced LED lighting into the illustrious Ballroom itself. Despite management's initial reservations making the significant investment in what Boyd called "a difficult market," the gamble paid off: "Bookings were up by 72% in the first quarter after the Ballroom lighting was commissioned and, while this is due to a range of factors, I have no doubt the lighting has made a significant contribution," Boyd said.
The chosen lighting consists of a host of Color Kinetics products to enhance the breathtaking visage of the Ballroom, which English Heritage has called the "grandest example of a Victorian ballroom in existence." Highlighting the architectural façade was of particular importance here because of the room's grandeur and consequent popularity among customers. To achieve an appropriately regal feel, many of the luminaires are discreetly positioned behind specially constructed concealments.
Blast fittings at the base of decorative moldings create bold contrast with ColorFuse Powercore luminaires, which line the entrance, by striking through the wash with its narrow beams, a pattern that is repeated throughout the space. iColor Cove QLX luminaires (now specified with PureStyle) are mounted within coves and internal arches for ceiling definition, and ColorFuse Powercore luminaires are fitted just below to provide a wash of light down the internal arch façade. To finish the ensemble, ColorGraze Powercore luminaires are combined with StyliD spotlights and iColor Tile MX luminaires (now specified with Flex Micro) in the bay at the end of the room to create a vivid focal point ideal for illuminating conferences and displays.
Boyd is extremely pleased with the ambiance created by this intricate LED installation and his customers' positive reception of the historic site's bold new look. "The results have been fantastic," he said.