When a UK lighting firm was set the challenge of illuminating a landmark Glasgow bridge, it turned to a product recently rolled out in Copenhagen

Lighting Technology Projects has completed the first UK installation of Martin Architectural’s Rail Light, running along the handrails of the stunning Tradeston Bridge in Glasgow.

The new, wave-like pedestrian footbridge links Tradeston on the south bank of the River Clyde with Glasgow’s financial services district. It was devised by Glasgow-based civil engineer Halcrow in partnership with Scandinavian architect Dissing & Weitling, and reflects Glasgow City Council’s objective of improving cross-river accessibility and simultaneously creating a landmark waterfront structure.

The experience of Lighting Technology Projects (LTP) gained in similarly intricate and detailed installations – which include the London Eye and Sidings Bridge, Swansea – was called into the project by Martin Architectural, which required the firm to deliver the lighting and fully project-manage the scheme for Martin’s direct client, BAM Nuttall. This included supplying the lighting equipment, doing the technical fit-out and commissioning, plus three years of site-based warranty support.

The primary aesthetic challenge was to ensure the light source was invisible along the 104 metre-long bridge’s elegant wave-like double curvature. The Rail Light system chosen was custom-shaped in three dimensions to fit the contours of the structure’s handrails, thereby maintaining a complete visual integrity and spatial harmony with the lateral and horizontal planes of the architecture.

LTP’s project manager, Jonathan Adkins, worked closely with Ian Steele from BAM Nuttall to engineer and realise the lighting installation, which involves 80 metres of Rail Light in approximately 60 bespoke curved and straight lengths. The product was specified by Dissing & Weitling, which had already used it for Bryggebroen, a 190 metre-long, 7 metre-wide bicycle and pedestrian swing bridge in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Rail Light is a highly contemporary flat modular system based on dimmable T5 fluorescent tubes and is specially designed for illuminating bridges and walkways. The high-efficiency, long-life T5 tube features control and power cables wired through the luminaire via waterproof connectors, with the profiles of each fixture joined end to end.

Each section features either an internal or external lateral curve, according to its exact position along the bridge, with a bend permeating throughout the entire length of the runs to suit the topography. Fitted into extruded aluminium fixings with a waterproof polycarbonate cover, the tubes are located just below the actual safety handrails, and throw light outwards and downwards, bathing the whole structure in white light.

The 840 cool-white T5 fixtures were selected to create a modern high-tech ambience to match the form and function of the bridge, and the immediate street lighting around the ends of the structure is in white light to match.

The challenges for LTP included getting samples for both straight and curved sections, complete with all the necessary customisations for the cover sections, through the required planning and design changes and rigorous health and safety approvals prior to fitting.

Meticulous checking and counter-checking was undertaken before manufacturing to ensure that every curve for the different sections was correct and accurate. Each light fitting has its own specific location and also marries up with the pre-installed support posts, with only millimetres of tolerance between the fixtures to maintain waterproofing and leave space for thermal expansion.

“There was absolutely no room for errors at this stage – either from us or the designers,” says LTP’s Jonathan Adkins.

The LTP team was on site for four weeks completing the work, which also included fitting the mains feeds, circuit protection and control system.

The lights run off a manual preset controller triggered by a time clock, switching on at dusk and off at dawn. This has been specially tweaked to produce the exact lux required legally pedestrian bridge illumination.

The final creation can thus be enjoyed by day and by night. Tradeston Bridge is intended to act as a catalyst for investment, promote confidence in the city and play a proactive role in the river’s regeneration, in addition to providing a focus for activities and events promoting Tradeston as a new urban quarter.

Adkins concludes:“It was a real pleasure to work on something as high-profile, beautiful-looking yet functional and accessible as this and to collaborate with BAM Nuttall and Martin Architectural. Intense planning and thorough calculations eventually paid off, and we were able to deliver on time and within budget.”