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The Dome for all Seasons

Special one-off projects can be so much more than something that disappears after the initial fanfare.

Creativity with a limited brief, deserves to be shared.

Each year, Michael Grubb Studio participate in the annual Darc Awards and 2017 London Design Festival and work in collaboration with a lighting manufacturer to develop a temporary light-art installation. This year it was Lumenpulse, who provided their support, enthusiasm and energy.

The Darc Awards is something we always enjoy participating in. This is where independent architectural lighting designers and light artists vote for their favourite lighting schemes. A big event on the lighting design calendar.

The theme for the installation this year, was on the creation of a geodesic dome.

The teams who took part, were supplied a dome kit to then customise our own structure. This also meant that the dome had to be taken down and then transported to Dalston, London for the event.

Think, Play, Produce in Practice

An innovative project, but limited time, how do these things work? Stuart Alexander, our senior designer explained, “We have shared the principal of think, play, produce. Putting it into practice is always important.”

“To get a project like this off the ground and everyone to buy-in and create shared enthusiasm, the merging of ideas is key.”

“We each went away, we collated, we grabbed, we scribbled and then we shared together how the dome could work. One thing I have always noticed from the Darc Awards is how a theme pushes each of us.”

When it came to the concept, we devised a pallette of textures, styles and forms that we loved. We then worked to curate the variety of thoughts into one concept, with key words such as ‘psychedelic’, ‘beach shanty’ and ‘repetitive patterns’ being key starting points.

We believed by making the actual structure into a sculpture would give us a strong starting point and little need to do much more. We honed our efforts into that.

When looking at the technical statement, Stuart highlighted, “Working with a geodesic dome with 3D structural struts provided some interesting challenges, which took some thinking to overcome. We mocked up small sections and worked on making sure the pattern would fit on minimal sections of wood in order to keep the amount of material used to a minimum.”

“I also spent some time creating the control system with TouchDesigner to give us an instant base for interesting animations, with layers and timings. This new approach is something you consider, but never get time to test. Darc provides the perfect test-bed to try new and interesting ideas out.”

“We all learn new skills and techniques with each installation. This is a discipline of thinking in detail and seeing how things really fit together. ”

Stuart highlighted the importance of team members showcasing their professional areas of expertise. “We all bring something different to the table.  For instance, Matt Athinodorou, has a focus within architecture. This meant that the drawings were precise, particularly for a structure that has to be disassembled for transportation. When it’s 60 pieces to construct, you have to be clear.”

With the intricacies of the project, could the project have taken a turn for the worse?

Stuart highlighted the importance of communication. “We talked about it in the office together and made sure everyone understood. This was so any small problems or concerns could be resolved quickly. This meant a lot of eyes saw all the small problems which could happen. We wanted it to pack and be moveable for different events and to be as beautiful as we could make with our hands on a very limited budget and resource.”

When it comes to the transportation of any structure for an exhibition there is little margin for error.

Boxes need to be packed, luminaries need to be tested and most importantly everything has to fit within a van comfortably. There is so much more to packaging than thinking that everything can be deconstructed, boxed and reconstructed with ease. It is all in the planning. The team has to take into consideration cabling routes, fixing of cables as well as the fixing restrictions in each area.

The Final Structure

When it came to the final structure, the focus was to make something beautiful and different. It is a way to celebrate the creativity of others, or in the words of Stuart, “This is Crufts for lighting designers.”

The project represents not just the ability to work on a temporary installation and present to audiences for a limited time, but the ability to share and showcase on a much wider level.

Andy Paddon, regional sales director for Lumenpulse, was part of the project team. When asked about his experience with us, Andy commented, “We jumped at the chance to work with Michael Grubb Studio. Having worked with them for many years I know they would be able to come up with a creative take on the theme.”

“Sure enough their brains went overdrive and they started throwing some great concepts around. As a manufacturer we were fortunate that the team at Michael Grubb Studio had a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve so it was relatively easy for Lumenpulse to provide the right fittings to make the project come to life.”

“A combination of Lumendomes and lumenfacade were used to create a multitude of colour effects and scenes. It didn’t stop there the light within the dome gave way to a fantastic moving shadow shown around the room.”

The geodesic dome, is a prime example of how a project can represent longevity and the importance of repurposing great work. We believe it is important to further the story and the journey of our installation with Lumenpulse. By repurposing, we mean switching to new locations and into a new format.

Would you like our pride and joy?

What started as a way to collate thoughts and ideas, became a physical manifestation that can now be shared with multiple audiences. Our dome now has longevity to be a part of someone else’s environment. We believe that good work, deserves to be seen and experienced by others. From a festival, to an event, our dome can have a place of meaning for others.

So, on a team level, where was the reward? Stuart highlighted, “No one knew what it would actually look like. Sharon and Martin from Light Collective said, ‘Please can we have a visual’ I refreshed and promised them it would be beautiful. It was a huge relief when we easily put it together. It was evident we had a very different approach and ideas to make something very different.”

We have tested, we have transported, we have spent days and nights perfecting something from the complicated to the natural. What about you?

If you would like to bring our installation a bit closer to you, then just get in touch with us. It may be short term, it may be long term, lets have that chat. Call Karen on 01202 511005 or email 

With the effort and love we put into this project, it deserves to be enjoyed.