After the Woolshed was damaged by fire in 2016, major works were required to restore the venue to its former glory. Beyond a simple rebuild, the team at Schiavello took this opportunity to renovate. Glowing Structures alongside Light Project were engaged to create solutions and design something new and fresh around what had long since been a pain point for the venue: the lighting.
In a heritage-listed site with vast, double height ceilings, lighting is always a challenge, explains Senior Designer at Glowing Structures and lead on the Woolshed project, Fay Greenhalgh.
Before the blaze, the Woolshed was filled with out of date technology that was difficult to operate for staff. Areas were either too dimly lit or overwhelmingly bright, and creating intimate, dynamic spaces within the open area was a challenge – one that needed to be resolved for the multi-functioning space with diverse lighting requirements.
Glowing Structures specified a control system that has the ability to adapt the individual sections of the venue to have specific lighting outputs – from bright, functional task lighting for corporate events, through to twinkling mood lighting for weddings. The system is also fitted with an RGB operation that creates any given hue, perfect for branded events. All aspects of the system can be changed at the touch of a button, eliminating difficulties for the staff.
The restrictions imposed by the heritage listing of the external structure meant a little creative thinking on the part of the team from Glowing Structures. “When working with heritage buildings, it’s important to be respectful of the building and its structure,” says Fay. Unable to drill into heritage-listed walls, they had to use existing lighting points and adapt locations previously installed for CCTV and other technological functions.
These challenges were made simpler with the help of the dedicated electricians, Eledat. Fay attributes their willingness to try any of their crazy ideas as key to the project’s overall success. “Without electricians doing what we need to light these spaces, we couldn’t achieve the outcomes we are after. We couldn’t do it without the help of our sparkies.”
Working with Light Project to conceptualise and visualise how light could be used to transform the space, Fay and the team at Glowing Structures created intimacy in a spacious open zone, while simultaneously making it feel like one cohesive venue. With an aim to enhance the structures within the building, focus was placed not on statement lighting, but rather on lighting key areas.
“The thing about lighting is that you shouldn’t be able to see it,” Fay says. “Whether you are a patron or member of the staff, you should be able to walk into a space and the light just works. That’s our job as lighting designers.”
Fay works with a ‘less is more’ mentality. Her favourite spaces within the Woolshed are those with the most simplistic treatment – but with, in her opinion, the biggest reward.
Take the conservatory dining room, a space that existed within the former Woolshed. Patrons and staff alike had previously admired the styling and charm, and they wanted to bring these sentiments back when restoring the space. Using filament globes suspended from the ceiling, but scattered artistically, the space was restored in a way that referenced and paid tribute to the past – where old becomes new.
Light has also been used as a navigation mechanism. In the vast space that sprawls over the Docklands waterfront, a logical pathway to all entry points had never been clear. Lighting the exterior spaces was a priority, in addition to providing light for the outdoor function areas. Subtle lights were introduced to frame the entry doors, and interestingly, shadow was implemented to create a reverse logo on the main façade of the venue – a statement piece. Within the building, a pathway of concealed uplights creates a secret passageway of sorts, directing patrons to the function rooms upstairs.
In the two years that Fay has been working in Melbourne, she has seen a huge shift from clients who are now becoming more accepting of the use of lighting designers over more traditional approaches.
“The clients and staff involved in this project were incredibly receptive to Glowing Structures’ ideas,” Fay says. “There was a real freedom and a willingness to let us go and find ideas and propose solutions. That made this job possible, we were incredibly grateful to have this opportunity to work with them.
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