3 UoS Concourse Midi Photography and Arup ; 3 UoS Concourse Midi Photography and Arup ;

University of Sheffield Concourse, Sheffield

How can lighting help revitalise a university campus?

Arup’s lighting designers have helped to revitalise the University of Sheffield concourse, by creating a multi-use space to encourage students and the public to sit, dwell and relax. The lighting scheme created offers a bold simplicity to the plaza that accentuates the clean lines and texture of the bridge, giving it a strong identity to the university campus.

Often as busy at 4am as it is at 4pm, the concourse at the University of Sheffield is at the heart of university campus life. Adjacent to the Student’s Union the concourse is divided by a 50-year-old concrete viaduct - an original 1960’s Arup design - supporting a dual carriageway above. Throughout the years the concourse became a transient “non-space” that until recently was used for cycle parking, offering little enhancement to university life.

Project Summary

140metres of custom linear luminaires.

7.4 kW of power consumption at full output.

16millioncoloured light combinations.

Creating colour through light

The simple elegant lines of the concrete structure demanded an uncomplicated lighting approach, treating each face as an individual element to be in light, or shade. Colour has been carefully selected to contrast surfaces and compliment materials. Soft direct white light is added at times were strong saturated colours may affect the occupants' experience; providing a a neutral spectrum without compromising the visual impact.

The area around the bridge is lit using building mounted luminaires focused along the main routes. Trees are up-lit and lighting has been integrated into benches to define the concourse boundaries. This helps to aid wayfinding and removes areas of deep shadow; contributing to an increased sense of safety and security.

university of Sheffield concourse lighting university of Sheffield concourse lighting

Much of the success of the project has been in the detailing of the complex interfaces not visible to the casual observer. The precast concrete benches have been designed to not only conceal the lighting fixtures, but also house cables, LED drivers, event power and electrical equipment embedded within its structure.

Simple effects, such as the shadow free wash of light from the benches, take the greatest care and attention. The team not only considered what the lighting will look like, but how cables will be drawn, connected and pass through the structure, as well as how this may influence the effect and long-term maintenance. Such precise details offer little room for error - becoming visible to the human eye. This attention to detail delivers the clean lines of light that characterise the space.


The approach has brought fantastic new life and vibrancy to the area, enhanced the form and structure of the feature bridge, and created a flexible and creative way to light this impressive space. ” Keith Lilley Director of Estates at University of Sheffield

Leveraging technology

To cater for the unique shape of the bridge, the team undertook a 3D laser scan of the structure. This 3D model was then used to optimise the distribution of light over the bridge and to limit the visibility of the lights to the observer. This use of technology has helped our designers to define the double curved form of the structure and create hidden enhancement of the luminaire design.


3D model of concourse 3D model of concourse
3D models were used to optimise the distribution of light over the bridge

Revitalising the concourse

The lighting scheme has created a welcoming atmosphere. Since opening, the concourse has been used to host external events including music gigs, launch events and an external bar. A DMX merger switch allows the Union events team to connect a mixing desk so that the viaduct becomes an external venue.

Through a networked lighting control system, university staff can select various pre-set scenes or reprogram the lighting to celebrate specific events, such as the Intramural Varsity matches. A different colour pallet is provided for each day of the week, representing the branding of the student event within the Students Union.

The control system is mounted on the university network and can be operated remotely via Virtual Private Network (VPN). Four operational modes have been pre-set to reflect the daily usage; winter afternoon, early evening, late evening and curfew. Each mode balances the use of white light and colour to match the activities taking place at the time.


A flexible lighting solution

The bridge is owned and maintained by Sheffield City Council. This meant that all lighting installed needed to be demountable and to not interfere or intrude with the physical structure. This would allow for it to be inspected by the council when needed. Our team worked closely with the City Engineers to make sure that all materials, fixing and installation methodology were pre-approved and would not impact on long-term maintenance of the structure.

To enable easy replacement and maintenance, all lighting needed to be mechanically fixed (not using adhesive). This led the team to create custom fittings that were instrumental to the end design of the space. To promote the longevity of the construction standard components were used, allowing for easy replacement when necessary.

To ensure the suitability of the pieces, mock-ups and prototypes were tested onsite to challenge the robustness, ease of installation/maintenance and physical performance of the chosen luminaires. 


Lux Awards 2019 - Outdoor Lighting Project of the Year

Surface Design Awards 2020 - Light & Surface Exterior

IALD Awards 2020 – Radiance Award, Award of Excellence