CUBE SQUARED

When it came to lighting the iconic glass and steel ‘cube’ that is London’s One Paddington Square, a careful balance had to be struck between its extensive glazing, the need for functional working spaces, its more architectural and ‘statement’ top floor and, in our post-Covid working world, the imperative for video calls to be properly lit, as lighting designer Sanjit Bahra explains.

One Paddington Square is an iconic ‘glass cube’ of a building, designed by Renzo Piano, which forms part of the new Crossrail entrance to Paddington Station in west London.

It is, as Sanjit Bahra, principal and founder of DesignPlusLight explains, very much a ‘legacy’ building, one that makes an ‘all eyes on London’ statement for whoever occupies it.

Working with architects T P Bennett, DesignPlusLight was tasked with lighting the upper nine floors of the building, in a project completed in the beginning of 2024 and which threw up a number of lighting and architectural challenges.

The brief, as Sanjit outlines, was to ensure the food and beverage and break-out leisure spaces on each floor seamlessly blend, on an open-plan office-floor arrangement with trading spaces and glass-partitioned meeting rooms.

The practice also illuminated the 16th floor hospitality level, including its reception area, conference meeting rooms, concierge, and a 150-seat auditorium with state-of-the-art video conferencing facility. On top of that was the commissioning of a statement bespoke illuminated metallic chandelier.

‘The location is phenomenal; it has fantastic, unparalleled, views of London,’ Sanjit tells Lighting Journal. While the 50m x 50m ‘box’ footprint does create something of a regimented office floorplan, curved lines of light are used to break up this rectilinear space, leading to the more relaxed breakout seating and eateries. Suspended acoustic-lined panels add a further layer of softness and texture and provide a visual anchor to the more informal areas.

‘As this is a corporate space – the palette and finish had to be considered across the entire floorspace. One important challenge was how to make these breakout spaces exciting but not overwhelming. In achieving that one has to carefully blend and layer the lighting so that it feels seamless and creates an effortless transition,’ Sanjit explains.

The office areas are lit to 3000K at between 300-500 lux, fully dimmable/controllable and linked to daylight control. In the breakout spaces, the lighting levels are a lot lower although they can also be tuned back up when needed. ‘It is a very considered approach. We gave those breakout spaces more of a hospitality feel within a commercial environment,’ Sanjit outlines.

On the curved lines of light or, as Sanjit describes them, ‘fabulous Scalextric-style tracks of light’, there is not a single straight line. This gives the space a playful feel. ‘Each food and beverage outlet on each floor is slightly different. They all have the same theme but different configurations, different wiggles.’

In our post-Covid hybrid working environment, another important element was creating a lighting scheme that accommodates Teams and Zoom video calls, one that deliberately considers how people are going to look in the space when they are on screen. This was something especially important for the 16th floor video-conferencing (VC) facility and auditorium, where the viewing audience is international. 

‘Video conferencing is of course far more important now than ever before; it has become a part of all our working vernacular. There was a unique opportunity here to customise the lighting and room design around the video-conferencing requirements, as opposed to it being the other way round, which is currently the case in most existing buildings,’ Sanjit explains.

Many VC office set ups do not present the viewer in a flattering light – and that affects the impression one has on your service and brand. At One Paddington, you can now press a button and create the right lighting for a video-conferencing scenario (tested on the latest cameras) both during the day and at night,’ he adds.

The building boasts a number of important architectural features. TP Bennett designed an internal staircase, which runs across all nine floors, allowing people to move within the building without using the lifts.

It comprises two sections made of steel, terrazzo and glass. DesignPluslight continued with its indirect lighting approach to enhance the curved balustrade and soffit details, giving the staircase a sculptural quality. ‘Modelling and lighting here was a challenge; we wanted to create an impression that the staircase was lit by indirect light sources so that the form and structure became the focus of this beautiful and elegant structure,’ Sanjit explains.

On the 16th floor, along with the VC suites, is an entertainment space, reception, and concierge area. Here, tuneable white LED sources were designed to ensure the lighting marries with the changing colour temperature of the outside space and daylight.

With the ceiling height restricted to 2.6m in the auditorium, layering helps to create the impression of height, which follows the raked seating arrangement. Linear lighting has been seamlessly detailed into the panelled ceiling to further enhance the dimensions of the space and to provide forward facial light onto the stage.

Then there is the bespoke metallic chandelier, created with Stoane Lighting, which spans the hospitality area. While Lighting Journal intends to return to this in more depth in a future edition, the aim was to create something that was both statement and subtle, argues Sanjit.

‘The top floor is the hospitality suite, comprising directors’ boardrooms, the auditorium, and breakout spaces. It’s very much about corporate entertaining and we wanted to give it a special feel by connecting all these elements with a decorative ceiling feature,’ he explains.

‘Whilst we had a 3m-high ceiling, the width and expanse of the building creates a sense of foreshortening, and it ends up not actually feeling that tall,’ Sanjit explains. ‘Further challenges were that the client wanted the feature to feel substantial whilst still maintaining the view and connecting the reception and staircase.

‘We wanted to evoke movement, or a sense of a murmuration that also allowed us to give variation and undulation – without blocking the spectacular view. The resulting chandelier comprised varying lengths of steel tubes, anodised in a metallic gold finish, with a mapped-out distribution of lit and solid detailed end pieces,’ he adds. 

Stoane Lighting produced a white-card model of the mass. Once this was approved, the practice modelled the feature in-house on SolidWorks, looked at it all three-dimensionally, with all the different perspectives.

‘We were very precise and deliberate with the lengths and proportion of lit to solid end pieces. It would have been too easy (and gauche) to light every point,’ says Sanjit. ‘There is something quite beautiful in pairing back the lighting effect and using the un-lit elements (shadow) as part of the feature. It added a sense of gravitas to the overall design and made the movement of the lit points that much more impressive.

‘We further integrated LED downlights within the base plates, to shine down between the cylinders which, together with the coffer lighting, reflected and modelled the metal tubes. It gave the feature a zingy-metallic effect. We are very proud of it as a showcase feature; it is not too loud, it doesn’t take away from the architecture or the view, but it is still very much a statement in the space,’ Sanjit adds.

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