The city of Ostend on the North Sea is also known as 'The Queen of Beaches'. This city of around 72,000 inhabitants is a popular destination for Belgian and international tourists thanks to its many attractions. As well as being a seaside resort, it also a city of art and culture, surrounded by nature and with plenty of sport and recreational facilities. It is also home to a large port which is leading the transition to cleaner energy. This modern and dynamic city has managed to create a strong identity for itself thanks to the determination of the local authorities to carefully develop its public spaces and offer a variety of experiences to its inhabitants and visitors. In addition to its magnificent beaches, the city has created many nature trails to discover on foot or by bike.
The local authorities are keen to not restrict art to galleries and museums and regularly commission works of art for public spaces, like the 'Crystal Ship' which has turned the city into an open-air gallery with gigantic frescoes by renowned Belgian and international artists. They firmly believe that art in the city leads to debate, creates social cohesion and invites both tourists and residents to discover the city differently, even neighbourhoods that they might never have visited.
In 2021, the city opened a brand new public swimming pool with a new esplanade leading to the entrance. The local authorities asked the renowned French lighting design office Atelier JÉOL to light this space in a way that would give it a unique, refined identity without cluttering the space.
Initially, the lighting designer Guillaume Jéol thought of discreetly integrating the lighting into the façade of the swimming pool and the benches so as not to obstruct the view of the building. As this was not technically feasible, he decided to go in the opposite direction and propose an original creation that would:
- attract the attention of passers-by;
- create a new artistic landmark in the city;
- harmoniously integrate this sober and elegant environment.
Movement and dynamism
For this work of art, Guillaume Jéol took his inspiration from the city’s spirit and its environment. Indeed, like any coastal city, water and wind, which are always in movement, are dominant elements of the environment. A movement, which is also reflected in this dynamic city, thanks to the local authorities. In contrast, the water in a swimming pool is static and only stirs when people dive in or move through the water. Diving is a movement of contraction then relaxation. It is this image that the lighting designer chose to symbolically represent in this project.
He imagined 2 sets of light columns with varying heights, from the smallest to the tallest, or vice versa, depending on the angle of view.
Initially, I wanted to keep this esplanade as clear as possible and frame the clean perspective of the swimming pools’ white brick façade. But in the end that was not possible… So, given the environment, there was not much choice: since lighting furniture had to be installed in the space, you might as well try and imagine something more artistic! The most difficult element was to be subtle and not verge on the kitsch while maintaining a connection with the subject, even if it is symbolic and sometimes tenuous. The observer must let his/her imagination do the rest!
To bring this artistic vision to life, Atelier JÉOL was looking for a slim column with the lighting at the top and available in different sizes. SHUFFLE met all of the criteria. Once found, the designers then had to make sure that it would be technically possible to incline each column differently.
Transforming a luminaire to meet specific needs
Schréder STUDIO supported the designers by carrying out the necessary technical studies to produce SHUFFLE columns with the inclinations requested by the customer.
In addition to the shape of the light columns, their position was carefully studied. Inspired by the movement of waves, 5 light columns were installed in a ¼ of a circle to the left and the 5 more in a ¼ of a circle to the right, reflecting the curve and counter-curve of the waves, from a horizontal perspective this time. Furthermore, this configuration provides different perspectives from the avenues leading to the esplanade.
The colours were also chosen for their symbolic importance. Corten steel was chosen for the columns to contrast with the light colour of the ground and swimming centre. The protectors of the first 4 SHUFFLE columns are blue, symbolising the colour of water. The attention-grabbing warm hue of corten steel pairs perfectly with the cool blue hue and creates a new contrast. The bronze colour of the corten steel is also a nod to the Stranger Rocks sculptures by artist Arne Quinze, visible on the neighbouring Zeeheldenplein.
For the city of Ostend, lighting public spaces always poses a challenge between respecting the lighting standards - to ensure their safety and comfort - and the sentiments felt by people when they use these spaces. By choosing blue LEDs, Atelier JÉOL was aware that it was facing a photometric challenge. They therefore opted for a gradient of blue light, leading to the tallest SHUFFLE which is equipped with white LEDs to guarantee the required lighting levels.
Public lighting to support the vision of public spaces
For the city of Ostend, the luminaires as well as the lighting must support the public space and the feeling they create among its users. They should not be a domineering feature but an element that enhances the sense of well-being in the space. Lighting the esplanade of the swimming pool is a great example. This symbolic work of art brings a unique touch to this public space both by day and by night. Elegant and perfectly integrated into the environment, it creates a harmonious atmosphere where each element has its place.
The lighting in public spaces adds a certain ambiance to the perception, not only at night but also during the day. The art of finding the perfect balance between day and night is not only an exercise in design, but also in collaboration with an open mind. Without a designer who masters art and persistent and courageous politicians and city officials, this cannot be achieved.
Schréder is particularly proud to have succeeded in this challenge by transforming a creative vision into reality. By customising the SHUFFLE, we were able to meet the expectations of the lighting designer both from a technical and photometric point of view and create a new iconic landmark in the city.