Award winning ‘light sculptor’ Peter Freeman is helping to create a dramatic and unusual new look in the heart of Swindon, as part of the town centre’s multi-million pound regeneration.
The Cornwall-based artist specialises in sculptures which celebrate light and its potential to create a positive uplifting ambience with the aim of transforming public spaces in strange and surprising ways.
His work can be found all over Britain, from the hallowed grounds of Winchester Cathedral to the bustling thoroughfare of Blackpool Promenade.
Peter, who has won a string of design awards, was instructed by specialist company Ove Arup working as part of the design team employed by Forward Swindon, the company in charge of the town centre’s regeneration, to help transform Regent Street in a £3.9 million project.
The seven month scheme, which is now nearing completion, involves the installation of uniquely designed paving and lighting to spectacular effect.
The project, which follows the completion earlier this year of a £3.9 million environmental improvement scheme in Canal Walk, pays homage to what was once the country’s smallest tram system.
From 1904 to 1929, trams plugged up and down Regent Street, and the line of the old track is being recreated in the new paving as a reminder of an important part of Swindon’s history.
But what will add the ‘wow’ factor is the installation of 140 LED lights in the paving, which will be aligned to further lighting in two stainless steel columns, at junctions with Edgware Road and College Street.
People walking along Regent Street will ‘trigger’ the paving lights, via sensors, to create ‘animated patterns of light’.
The lights will ripple along the surface of Regent Street and continue up onto the 40ft columns – or ‘gateway light beacons’ as they are being called.
The aim is to conjure ‘a positive and uplifting environment for entering and leaving Regent Street’. The towers – one twisted and the other curved – will also create new focal points of visual interest.
Says Peter, who was hired as a consultant to the project: “The lighting will run all the way along Regent Street and up onto the columns.
“It will highlight the old tram route in a spectacular way. It will also create a new vibe in Regent Street, making it more interesting and engaging.”
Forward Swindon, who consulted members of the public before designing the scheme, say the sculptural light forms will create a dynamic environment and provide a visually stimulating experience in Regent Street.
Project leaders say the columns and paving lights will be synchronised to create a harmonious visual landscape as well as draw movement along the primary Regent Street path and create a colourful and positive ambience.
Forward Swindon’s projects manager Nick Conder said the scheme, which began in May, was progressing on budget and ahead of schedule.
The columns – the final details of which were only recently approved – will be installed by January.
Nick says: “We’re very pleased with the way it’s been progressing.
“Most of the work – around 70 per cent– takes place at night, mainly for health and safety reasons.”
Regent Street is the third key area of the town centre to undergo major public realm renewal following the completion of the Wharf Green scheme in 2008 and Canal Walk several months ago.
The aim is to provide a vibrant street scene which will attract visitors and shoppers to the centre of Swindon.
The projects follow a link-up between Forward Swindon, Swindon Borough Council and the South West RDA (Regional Development Agency).