What’s lighting our shopping centres?

The stunning roof design at Chadstone, featuring 2700 pieces of glass and 600 lights. Picture: Jackie Chan

Illuminating a shopping centre in 2017 is a far cry from the old days of screwing in some bulbs and going to town with a few thousand cheap and nasty fluorescent tubes.

Try three years of planning and construction, in some cases, to achieve the stunning displays and effects that are becoming commonplace in modern malls.

If you’ve visited the revamped Chadstone Shopping Centre – the southern hemisphere’s largest mall – you’ll undoubtedly have noticed the soaring new domed roof extension, spread over the size of 10 football fields with 2700 individual and uniquely proportioned pieces of glass, a towering 31m above the shopping centre floor.

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Lighting design consultancy Electrolight’s Melbourne studio was tasked with lighting the new space, including the glass and roof – no easy feat considering the lights within the roof need to be hidden from view to ensure nothing distracts from any lighting effects.

Electrolight directors Elisha Howard-Apse and Jess Perry say their lighting design for the roof alone includes 600 individually programmable luminaires that allow for anything from colours to pictures and even moving video to be projected onto the glass.

Chadstone Shopping Centre's roof lighting

Chadstone Shopping Centre’s new ‘gridshell’ illuminated roof. Picture: Jackie Chan.

“High powered linear LED lights are located end to end along the bulkhead that travels around the base perimeter of the grid shell ceiling. These lights provide a wash of light to the ceiling structure that gradient away as it travels up towards the apex of the structure,” Howard-Apse and Perry tell realcommercial.com.au.

“All light fittings are concealed from view to ensure a glare-free lighting installation that does not distract from the lighting effect. The fittings are colour selectable, enabling scenes to be created using manual selections, video or images as backgrounds to select light colour.”

From the design phase, which included 3D mapping, prototypes and extensive testing to ensure they’d be able to achieve their desired effects, lighting Chadstone’s redevelopment took more than two years.

Eastland lightning Electrolight Ringwood Shopping Centre

One of Eastland’s stunning visual design elements. Picture: Michael Gazzola

A little further north at Eastland, in Ringwood, the design phase of the lighting elements for the overhauled centre took three years alone.

The aim, similarly to Chadstone, was to integrate lighting into the architectural and structural elements, using natural light to do the heavy lifting during the day, and artificial light to fill any gaps, as well as enhance a number of the centre’s stunning new visual features and displays.

The end result included significant work on the ceiling treatments, and also involved the difficult task of tying a number of very separate spaces together without jarring shoppers with disparate lighting for each area.

Eastland Shopping Centre Ringwood lighting Town Square

The Town Square and exterior area at the redeveloped Eastland Shopping Centre. Picture: Michael Gazzola.

“This presented the challenge of illuminating each area to enhance the themes, whilst still maintaining a consistent language throughout, without appearing as a patchwork of lighting applications,” the designers say.

“These types of clients are generally more concerned with the visual result and they know how (much) the atmosphere can impact the final outcome.”