Torquay’s Royal Terrace Gardens in the best light

7th February 2022
Beatrice O'Flaherty

Set amongst the picturesque coastline of Torquay, South Devon, the Royal Terrace Gardens are a popular tourist attraction frequented by locals and visitors alike. Multi-award-winning lighting design practice Michael Grubb Studio was commissioned by Torbay Council to develop ‘Lightplay’ - a new, permanent, lit interactive route along the seafront.

The overall concept devised by Michael Grubb Studio is to encourage visitors to enjoy the gardens and take inspiration by extending the notion of sunset so as to bring a sense of health, happiness and enjoyment that comes with the warmth of evening light.

The main elements are composed of step lighting, cliff floodlighting and bespoke artist designed columns that create a holistic experience for the gardens encouraging people to pause and enjoy their surroundings as well as providing a safer environment. The combined work forms a warm welcoming environment to walk, meet and play. 

Michael Grubb Studio collaborated with visual artist Anouk Mercier in partnership Torquay Museum to develop a series of interactive lighting columns to form beacons and create pools of light with integrated projections along the lower pathway inspired by the museum’s collections.

Engagement and feedback from local residents provided a selection of references that form part of the surface design for the columns. The importance of the natural environmental themes, particularly celebrating Torbay’s UNESCO Global Geopark designation and exceptional geological and natural environment play a key creative framework.

Back lit, laser cut forms with the columns, ranging from corals and seaweed to birds, form a fine tracery articulating the lower pathway. Gobo projections onto the walkway of selected designs form playful dynamic punctation points.

The illuminated staircase in an array of colours, leads to a new viewing platform with impressive sea views. The use of warm colours through the scheme creates pools of light in which to bask and play.

Lightplay was conceived and curated by cultural producers Ginkgo Projects.

Electrical contractors Drew and Co formed part of the project team, working collaboratively with the creative team and suppliers to install the lighting in a live working environment.

Reflecting on the project, Michael Grubb said: “The Royal Terrace Gardens are a beautiful space that needed restoration to bring them back to life. It was a fantastic project to be involved in, especially as working on a community-led initiative is always refreshing.  The local residents, businesses and students will be the most frequent visitors to the gardens, so it is important they have a sense of agency over the look and feel of the attraction.”

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