Thursday Salute to Originals: 52 North Soho by 44th Hill – Runway of Lights

When we are developing custom lighting pieces for our clients, one essential question we always ponder is: what does lighting mean to the space?. Should it be functional, mood-setting, or decorative? Today, we have the Stuart Hill, the Creative Director of 44th Hill brand environments agency to talk about the design process for the lighting at the 52 North Soho project.

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The design brief for 52°North Bar & Kitchen was to create a ‘home from home’ at the heart of Soho in London. The relaxed atmosphere and touches of classic Eames furniture gives the feel of comfort and luxury. The walls have a feathered-like design of wood panels, the furniture is a mix of wooden chairs and lavish leather Chesterfields with soft lighting throughout. A feature wall of painted graphics dominates the stairwell wall capturing the style of 52°North Bar & Kitchen.

“Upon entering, from the front door to the bar area are 600 light bulbs overhead (as a runway of lights) which give the bar and restaurant the creativity and uniqueness that Soho deserves, giving 52°North Bar & Kitchen a distinct design feature which also enhances its ambience”, the restaurant describes the atmosphere.

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gpidesign: The “runway of lights” is a brilliant idea. It leads people’s focal point directly to the bar. What was your design inspiration?

Stuart Taylor: ‘The bright lights of Las Vegas’, making people feel special when the bright lights are shining. It draws you in from external views.

gpidesign: How was the strong axis of the “runway of lights” reinforced by the remainder of the space?

Stuart: I kept the rest of the space more minimal to make sure that the focal point was the runway…..all of the other elements were soft and comforting.

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gpidesign: How significant of a role does lighting play in creating the “home away from home” atmosphere for 52 North?

Stuart: The dimming capability of the lights allows the whole bar to create the required mood… can turn the lights down near to off, this really brings the comforting feel that we were after.

gpidesign: Often in design, lighting sources are concealed or disguised. In your application, the fixtures are stripped down and raw. There’s no smoke and mirrors here – you see the socket and bulb immediately as part of the interior. How do you think this honest approach to the lighting affects the aesthetic of the space? Do you think its more difficult to design using this type of strategy?

Stuart: The mix was to create a contemporary space with some traditional, industrial aspects, the exposed batten fittings gave this feel, whilst adding a focus and a ‘home’ for the light bulbs, there was certainly no hiding 600 lights…, so I wanted to celebrate the fact and over express their application.

A special thank you to Stuart Taylor and 44th Hill! You can check out more of their immersive brand environments on their website: 44th Hill