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Landscape Lighting Design: Blue Boar Wharf Crane


The brief

The 200-tonne Blue Boar Wharf shipping crane was originally one of a pair, built in 1957. It had a 10-tonne lift capacity and was used to unload aggregates for the nearby cement works.

The cranes were dismantled in 2006 to allow the construction of the new river wall. But in 2007, one crane was reassembled and re-painted in its original colour before being erected at the edge of Blue Boar Creek.

We were instructed to light this striking landmark for our client Countryside to ensure their new development (Rochester Riverside), had an appropriate focal point and landmark for the area.  Ecology and the environment were of key concern due to its location next to the River Medway, so a suitably sympathetic design needed to be delivered.

The concept

We produced a visualisation for the client, and planners, to assess the potential look for the crane once lit.  We wanted to bring out its industrial nature with strong shadows revealing the skeleton-like form and its sharp, hulking lines.  We had no CAD drawings, or measurements, to work from so everything had to be done by eye and from experience.

We arrived at a cool icy blue wash of saturated LED which would use parts of the spectrum that wouldn’t negatively affect ecology receptors but would still bring out the colour of the daytime paintwork, a pale blue.  With a full-colour change LED product, we can, of course, refine each colour as we commission the final installation and subtly change different parts of the frame so they form a more interesting finished result.  We intend to use palettes of the same colour to draw the eye to different aspects of its form from its many viewing angles, providing depth and interest.

Within the internal spaces of the cab areas we wanted to reflect the warmth of past human use, against the colder exterior. We will be looking to internally light these spaces to provide contrast and to draw the eye within this noteworthy structure.

The site trial

Shortly before lockdown 2, we attended site to try out products and their desired locations on the crane structure.  This was an exciting moment, and we were keen to see if our concept would work in reality.  The photos speak for themselves as we washed the main fabric of the crane with coloured light to see what hues worked.  The photos reflect some of the most striking effects however we will change the final tone, and colour, of the finished installation during commissioning to ensure the environmental considerations are met.  A full-colour change LED system with lighting control does give the client the flexibility to use this landmark to reflect special events, and holidays, to really bring alive its legacy to the community that surrounds the site.

The design will be installed in 2021 and we will post further results at that time.