Leeds city centre certainly does not have a shortage of shops or shopping centres at the moment. From ‘Thornton’s Arcade’ which has been around since 1878, to the new Victoria Gate, set to open in the autumn of 2016, shopping for entertainment has always been a big part of Leeds’ cultural identity.
Lighting is important for these shopping centres as creating a light and airy space will make people want to come in and explore the shops within, and it is also important that people can see where they are going, as at times these centres can get very busy especially around holidays. However, the centres use different lighting techniques to achieve this.
Arcades: Thornton’s, Queen’s, County and Victoria
Shopping arcades were a Victorian institution and Leeds was not exempt from this, with 8 being built between 1875 and 1900.
Because electrical lighting was years away from being commercially available, other ways to light the arcades for shoppers had to be implemented. That is why many of the roofs of these buildings are cast-iron frames with glass across the top, to allow as much natural daylight as possible into the space. In the Queen’s Arcade, this led to glass pavement lights being installed into the upper balcony, to allow light to the floor below. In 1989, the Victoria Quarter updated it’s roof with the addition of the largest piece of stained glass artwork in Great Britain. Using glass for the roofs is so iconic that, in the new Victoria Gate arcade, 1030 glass panels will be used for the roof of the building.
Now, many of these have some form of extra lighting on floor level for those days when it’s just not quite bright enough, or for any late-night shoppers. While the bulbs may be new however, the lighting features have been kept in traditional Victorian style. Natural light makes it appear as if shoppers are outside, but the indoors shields them from the worst of the weather, making it more likely that they will spend more time inside the centre.
The Corn Exchange
Built in 1864, this Grade I listed structure was obviously not originally designed for shopping but, as the name suggests, exchanging corn. However in 1990, permission was granted to convert the decaying building into a shopping centre. They has stuck true to emphasising smaller, independent stores and the beautiful surroundings certainly help.
The glass roof is panelled so that the natural light is not direct, and scattered LED lights on the framework were put in in 2009 to help light up the lower levels. Like in the Arcades, natural light is the best way to show the old architecture of the building, but the LEDs can put special attention onto the shops themselves.
Named after the church close by, the St John’s Centre is the middle of three shopping centres leading down the Headrow. The main lighting features are recessed downlights in the ceiling down the walkways, with some tube lighting in filter boxes at the entranceways to increase the apparent light. This also helps create the walkways that guide people inside the centre. There are also accent lights on some of the supporting posts and, as ever, a large section of glass in the ceiling to allow natural light inside.
As it is Britain’s oldest shopping centre, it was about time the Merrion Centre got an upgrade. Along with a brand new gym, the centre had a brand new car park built over it called CitiPark. In this refurbishment, 378 individual RGB LED lights were installed into and onto this car park and, to show of their capabilities, pre-programmed light shows are already scheduled for upcoming holidays. This brings the centre back into relevancy for the general public, as well as brings it to the edge of the lighting world too.
Originally constructed as the headquarters of the Leeds Permanent Building Society, the Light now houses a Vue cinema, a gym and some independent shops and restaurants. Large floor to ceiling windows let natural light in from one side, while extra light is provided by a glass ceiling and small floodlight which illuminates the shop and restaurant fronts. These lights are mainly for when the natural light is not sufficient to draw the eye to the business fronts.
The largest, and newest of Leeds’ shopping centre’s, Trinity certainly makes an impact and it’s lighting is no different. Although that inescapable glass also finds its way here, the most up-to-date feature is the fact that, on the dome roof, 982 low energy LEDs are placed, which can light up the centre at night with many colours and patterns. Above the walkways, there’s recessed downlighting and LED panels for those areas that cannot fully capture the light. This amazing design scheme was clearly noticed as, in 2014, the lighting won Best Large Retail Project of the Year at The Lighting Design Awards.