Speirs + Major light St Botolph's Building

First impressions last, and for a new speculative office development in the heart of the insurance district of the City of London it is supremely important to make a great one. With a design that uses precision detailing to merge light into the architecture Speirs + Major worked to add maximum visual impact to the St Botolph’s building, delivering an enhanced user experience within an environmentally conscious framework.

Commissioned by Minerva plc, and designed by Grimshaw, the building comprises 560,000 square feet of lettable space over 14 storeys. The brief called for a landmark building of significant architectural merit, and a highly adaptable space. In response, everything was designed to aid the fast and efficient transfer of workers around the space, from the two large entrances, through the vast split level reception, where people enter the high tech TWIN lift system featuring eight shafts each with two independent cars, up to the huge lift lobby and bridge structure.

Initially appointed to design the lighting for the internal public areas, and later to an overseeing role for the client, Speirs + Major based their design concept around enhancing the journey from the entrances through to the individual office receptions.  Key elements that assist with way finding are highlighted, with emphasis on the dramatic and dynamic nature of the spaces and structures.

Beginning at the revolving doors, the visitor is drawn through to the brightly spot lit reception desk and then immediately confronted by the vast reception area. Faced with such a large volume, including single, double and triple height areas, the design idea was to ‘clad’ the vertical surfaces in light delivering strong visual impact and helping to make sense of the space. By creating a glowing luminous perimeter to the outer reception and an even brighter perimeter to the lower ground space these surfaces would act as a visual draw, guiding people to lift loading zone at lower ground.  Working in close collaboration with the architects, Speirs + Major developed the wall cladding system of fins with fully integrated lighting, using a textured panel detail to ensure the light washed the surface in the desired way.  2500 custom LED fittings and 8km of extrusion were used to form both the walls and the balustrade system. Every possible effort was made to fully integrate the technology and to achieve absolute visual consistency, and the result is that it is impossible to tell where the light ends and the building begins.

Elsewhere, warm white down lighting is used to provide a counterpoint to the bold and cool white light at reception. The lift lobbies and bridges are underlit to ensure coherence with the rest of the lift core, whilst the atrium roof structure is uplit to ensure the space always appears light and airy regardless of the use of lighting by office tenants. In the central atrium, the designers persuaded the architects to add glazed floors to the core to prevent the huge structure from becoming too imposing. These are also uplit using a custom-designed integrated profile system, resulting in a glowing animated structure that forms the heart of the building.

In considering the nighttime identity for the building, maximum visual impact needed to be balanced with client environmental responsibility.  The resulting design minimises energy consumption by using internal lighting to express the structure, with the addition of some small areas of focus. At the base, the columns and colonnades are backlit to define the entrance. The top of the building features a series of louvre blades that are softly backlit to cap the structure. The four central glazed cores containing escape stairs and fire lifts create the link that connects the base to the top. When daylight drops to an insufficient level, lighting is in place provide the requisite light level on the tread, but dims down to approximately 10% down when unoccupied. Presence detectors on each level rapidly trigger the lighting on that level and half landings above and below to come up to full brightness when anyone enters the space. As a person moves up or down the stair core, the lighting seemingly follows along with them, adding some playful human animation to the exterior.


Project Title: St Botolphs
Lighting Designers: Andrew Howis, Mark Major, Chih-Chieh Hwang, Benz Roos

Major Scheme Associates
Client: Minerva plc
Architect: Grimshaw
Electrical Engineer: Roger Preston and Partners
Main Contractor: Skanska
Electrical Contractor: Skanska Rashleigh Weatherfoil
Notable Suppliers: ACDC Lighting, Erco, Zumtobel

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