25 Martin Place is a Sydney icon. Designed by Harry Siedler in the 1970s, it was recently transformed in partnership with Woods Bagot and Harry Seidler & Associates. Harry Seidler & Associates wanted façade and precinct lighting to compliment the architecture, creating a vibrant environment throughout the day and evening, with a backdrop of one of the world’s tallest reinforced concrete buildings.

We revisited the original lighting drawings and specifications to understand Seidler’s vision for the architecture of the precinct. We used modern lighting techniques to reimagine and bring focus to heritage architecture and existing artwork. The façade features a continuous white ‘ribbon of light’ around the reinvigorated podium – integrating insights from our Shades of Night research which emphasises variable lighting for diverse night-time activities.

Invisible by day, the dynamic lighting within the ribbon illuminates with a captivating glow, simulating subtle movement. At night, the glass ribbon transforms and comes alive with a sunset scene that subtly transitions over the evening. Our approach has helped to transform Sydney’s heritage architecture and create a welcoming environment into the evening cementing 25 Martin Place at the heart of Sydney CBD culture and hospitality scene.

Arup’s collaboration in the design and engineering of the glass facades and lighting realised unique solutions which now form the fundamental identity of the new architecture which sits harmoniously with Harry’s original masterwork of 1976.

Greg Holman

Architect, Harry Seidler & Associates

Dynamic lighting design

The ‘ribbon of light’ at 25 Martin Place is the first project to feature insights from our Shades of Night research. This research shows the value of dynamic lighting that adapts to different activities and people within the built environment.

Our lighting design, influenced by these principles, ensures the façade and public spaces dynamically dim and change tones to align with night-time activities, such as post-work arrivals, dining, and theatre performances. The lighting transitions from warm white at sunset to cool white resembling moonlight. Fridays and Saturdays bring a more theatrical lighting dynamic an hour after sunset, featuring a dynamic five-minute show on the ribbon.  

The precinct integrates lighting into key architectural and landscape elements, creating an ambient and moody atmosphere, while subtle accents guide people through the space. We achieved this using only perimeter lighting to ensure clear sight lines and a welcoming environment. This deliberate design aims to foster a warm and inviting environment for the hospitality venues at the location, as people leave offices and transition from work to leisure time. 

Enhancing heritage architecture

Our approach to the lighting design of the heritage architecture involved a meticulous integration of modern techniques while complimenting the existing structure. Working through the original lighting drawings and details supplied by Seidler Architects, we relit the site using new technology and lens cross aiming the beams to highlight the underside of the icons. We also used different approaches for the heritage elements compared to the new artworks. We lit the heritage elements using 3000k temperature lights, and we lit the existing sculptures using a single source for greater visual impact. We chose 4000k lights for the new artworks as this brings out the colours of the mosaic wall. 

The glass ribbon, featuring a subtle movement resembling fabric in the wind, required careful lighting considerations. Dynamic lighting was essential for the ribbon effect, allowing for dimming and brightening to simulate movement. We embedded lights into the façade rather than lighting from below to create a captivating glowing effect. The complex glass structure, with layers and patterns, demanded precision in light placement to achieve the desired ribbon effect.  

This innovative use of lighting not only transforms the heritage architecture but also showcases a harmonious blend of traditional and contemporary elements, creating a visually stunning and dynamic nighttime aesthetic.