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Located in central Coventry, City Village comprises 600 student bedrooms across three buildings encircling a courtyard. From inception to completion, the scheme took only three years, which is why something as small as feature lighting along the large void of an outside pathway could have easily be disregarded or completely value engineered out of the final result.

First, we proved to our client, Downing, and contractor, GDC, that the pendant lighting was a valuable addition to the scheme. We felt strongly that the colonnade, a vast space underneath the main building which leads visitors into the development and main courtyard, needed large pendant lighting to mediate between the scales of the human entrances at either end and the void spaces above. Adding feature lighting also makes for a more intimate space; it would have felt quite cavernous walking along the colonnade without it.

As the fittings weren’t specified in the original brief, it didn’t take us long to realise that installing nine, large scale pendant lights would not be viable within the available budget. The large size of the pendant lights meant that custom made fittings were more cost effective, so we teamed up with Tyson Lighting to create a bespoke contextual solution. Also working in collaboration with GDC’s specialists and outside consultants allowed us to find a budget friendly solution without compromising on quality or our original design vision.

Our modelmakers created a prototype of the initial concept to see how the light fitting worked. The resulting football-like design didn’t really relate to the city or the project, so we developed an angular, cuboid design, which ties in with the building’s gridded façade. We also took inspiration from Coventry Cathedral to inform the fretwork of the cuboid’s PPC aluminium panels, which are riveted together to form a cage. The resulting pattern was laser cut etched into each cuboid panel and repeated on some soffit panels, which provide both light and decoration.

The scale, shape and pattern of the light fittings provide a warm and inviting atmosphere, and different visual effects, casting interesting shadows as the sun moves throughout the day. With each cuboid side spanning 1 metre, three arms hold each pendant light, ensuring minimal movement caused by wind. Using long life LED bulbs was important for easy maintenance as the lights can only be accessed from the ground.

Surprisingly to me, the part I enjoyed the most throughout the process was persuading the client, contractor and project team that it would be worth the effort to install the pendant lights. While the pendant lighting is only a minor aspect of the overall project, we proved that with rigorous consideration and using the skills available from all project team members, it is possible to achieve what initially appears to be an unviable option, while at the same time provide a differentiating feature that is both practical and beautiful.