Projected Image Digital (PID) specified, supplied, and installed dynamic LED lights in the foyer/entrance of Tate Liverpool, located on the city’s historic Albert Dock.

Tate Liverpool is one of the highest profile modern art galleries in the Northwestern part of England and attracts up to 600,000 visitors a year. Initially PID was contacted by Manchester-based architects ARCA following a phone call from lighting designer Paul Normandale and a demonstration by PID at Tate Liverpool in October 2006.

ARCA’s Emma Corbett wanted to create a “lightgate” concept, designed to refresh and revitalize the foyer and entrance areas to help make the space work and flow better and be more versatile for the myriad of different functions and events hosted at the Tate Gallery.

The “lightgate” is made from internally lit Barisol stretch material. ARCA approached PID to advise on the best lightsources and for help coordinating the engineering and realization of the project, which was completed by PID’s Noel Brassey and ARCA’s Mike Riley.

The idea was to end up with a selection of shifting light patterns visible from right across the Albert dock, not just those entering the Tate, along with simple bold displays of the gallery layout and a reorientated reception area with a dramatic new desk unit.

One of the challenges was that there is only 100 mm of depth between the Barisol and the wall, and to cover the large surface area tightly and efficiently, they needed to build up a good light intensity. So PID came up with the idea of having double rows of newly designed custom LED strips. These use 1 Watt Luxeon LEDs in a double configuration, with 2 LEDs side by side and 20 emitters per strip in 1200 and 600 mm lengths.

Another major challenge was Tate Liverpool’s Grade 1 listed building status, so the installation had to be meticulously carried out with minimal impact to the environment. This task was undertaken by electrical contractors and closely overseen by PID’s team of Brassey and installation engineer Rob Smith

A total of 46 of the special LED strips are used to illuminate the lightgate, an area of 48 square metres, each placed at 20 mm intervals and fixed to the steel RSJs behind the Barisol covered area. The optics had to be carefully calculated to ensure even coverage as the lenses on the LEDs throw the light six degrees in one direction and 25 in the other, with no room for angling standard light fixtures or alternative focussing methods.

“We hit upon the solution,” explains Brassey. “And then, as there was nothing suitable available on the market, we had the units custom made by specialist manufacturer Tritechnology.” The space was so restricted that even conventional double row LED products would not have fitted, so PID had these mounted on special aluminium trays.

For control, PID specified a Pharos LPC1, which was programmed by Brassey and Smith to give 16 accessible buttons, each triggering a different sequence or look.

Currently the standard setting is “white full” for normal daytime use when the galleries are open to the public. In the evenings, events and functions can utilize the colored sequences and looks to give a very funky effect, completely changing the mood and nature by bathing it in different colors and intensities.

Robust lightsources needing the least maintenance were also a consideration. The building is open to the public seven days a week, and the limited access was yet another reason that LEDs were chosen. The only way to get access to the LEDs is by removing the Barisol, which is a highly delicate and time consuming operation in a busy working space that is best avoided if possible.

They also wanted the effects to have an additional, independent impact on the Albert Dock area at night.

The flexibility and appeal of the system is already proving itself and becoming a real local talking point and a big hit with Tate staff and its visitors and clients alike.