Illuminating history
Hoare Lea lights the Radcliffe Observatory, Oxford
Night of Heritage Light 2017

Taking part in the Night of Heritage Light (NoHL), Hoare Lea’s lighting team was given the opportunity to illuminate the iconic eighteenth-century Radcliffe Observatory.

The NoHL took place in Oxford on the 29th September and was organised by the Society of Light and Lighting (SLL) in partnership with Oxford University’s Curiosity Carnival. The event involved seven teams of lighting designers lending their technical and artistic skills to celebrate the ‘art and science of light’ by illuminating some of Oxford’s most beautiful historic buildings.

Ben Acton, a Principal Lighting Designer at Hoare Lea, explains: “We crafted a stunning design to light the historic Radcliffe Observatory – a perfect choice for Hoare Lea as it sits just a five-minute walk from our Oxford office. This Grade-I listed building was integral to Oxford University’s research into astronomy for more than a century and it was a delight to create a design inspired by both the building’s scientific heritage and its beauty.”

Observing light and real-time interaction
Hoare Lea’s starting point was the Observatory’s history of astronomy. “Of course, the best way to view the night sky is in complete darkness, so we rejected the typical approach of using floodlights, “says Ben. “Instead, blue light was selected to echo the ‘midnight blue’ sky, subtly enhancing the building’s architecture, while also turning it into a platform to showcase a stunning projection of stars.”

The design investigated the idea of looking in, at and out of the building – of observing its many forms. More than 200 LED nodes were hung within the large viewing windows, with a dimming programme that created a sparkling star effect. A narrow shaft of light was beamed out of the building and projected into the darkness – to powerfully portray the act of studying the night sky.

To add an interactive element, and give a nod to technological advances, a Twitter-triggered lighting element was incorporated. When anyone tweeted using the #NOHL #twinkletwinkle hashtag the LED nodes flashed quicker and brighter than within the standard cycle. This gave viewers an immediate visual feedback, allowing them to actively ‘celebrate the art and science of light’.

Image credit
Society of Light & Lighting, Night of Heritage Light; © Dan Paton –

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