The Gateway Goes Greek
The world’s No. 2 Greek city throws opens its gates.
Text:/ Matt Caton
Images:/ Casamento Photography
Melbourne has a well-earned reputation for being a multicultural hub. Much like most of the world’s established cities, a simple five minute walk up the road in any direction can result in the discovery of completely new and different cultural delight. But while Melbourne’s Chinatown is well known for its five iconic key arches, and the Little Italy precinct is renowned for its al fresco cafe culture (and its over-abundance of Carlton supporters), Melbourne’s Greek precinct has always struggled a little with its own identity. A recent City of Melbourne initiative helped address this issue, commissioning a star-themed lighting installation suspended above the intersection of Lonsdale and Russell Streets to create the ‘Lonsdale Gateway’ – a new visual marker for the Greek precinct.
The Cultural Precincts Enhancement Fund was created by the Victorian government to help preserve the character of Melbourne’s cultural precincts and is a partnership with the City of Melbourne, and the Greek, Chinese and Italian communities. State Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship Nicholas Kotsiras – who helped ‘flick the switch’ on this installation – believes it will herald the rejuvenation of the historic Melbourne Greek precinct, “The new blue and white lighting installation evoking the night sky’s stars and the Greek flag also acts as a beacon welcoming visitors to the Greek precinct.”
The gateway complements markers in Melbourne’s Chinese and Italian precincts that were also funded through the Cultural Precincts Enhancement Fund. The Victorian Government also contributed towards Hellenic-themed glass screens and awnings revitalising the area’s celebrated cafes and shops.
A MEDITERRANEAN SKYLINE
The corner of Lonsdale and Russell streets now plays host to a suspended web-like veil of power and data cables that stretch across the intersection suspending 144 LED fixtures. This highly ambitious idea was originally conceived by the City of Melbourne, whose Project Director Ian Dryden presented the concept to Webb Australia, who acted as Electrical Engineer and Lighting Consultant for the project. Webb in turn, sought the help of Lightmoves to come up with a solution for the light fittings and the control.
Lightmoves approached manufacturer Space Cannon Australia, with the initial idea of using a similar fitting to that employed on the Marina Bay Bridge project in Singapore. However, as Space Cannon Australia’s Fabian Barzaghi explains, it wasn’t quite right for this unique project. “That fitting was long and thin, with a single rear-entry cable that was designed to be mounted into a steel structure. It fulfilled the project’s performance requirements, but would have required a major re-design to accommodate the structural requirements of this project.”
They decided instead to use a fixture derived from the Nike P9 LED created just a year earlier for the roof at AAMI Park (as reported in AV Issue 13). After a prolonged and rigorous testing and approval process, a fixture was designed to suit suspension from a catenary rig and that was able to be installed and maintained without too much trouble. “We decided to use a more-shallow version with low voltage side-entry cables and on-board RDM (Remote Device Management) and temperature-monitoring. This formed the perfect template for this project, and ticked all the boxes to meet the mechanical and performance requirements,” explains Barzaghi.
“For aesthetic reasons the client didn’t want to see the plug/socket arrangement that we had previously developed for the AAMI Park project. Installation of the catenary cables and fittings was also going to be a difficult and long process, so we came up with a two-part fitting arrangement that enabled the contractors to space the fittings correctly and pre-cable the system without having the actual fixtures on-site: back half for mounting, the front half housing all the electronics and LEDs.” The housing bracket itself is a simple aluminium bowl with two cable glands and terminal strip inside, which allowed the contractors to preassemble and terminate the fittings offsite in a factory. While the Nike P9 was a full colour-mixing RGB fixture, this version sees the red component replaced with a white LED, allowing the fixtures to emit blue and white – the colours of the Greek flag.
CREATING THE WEB
The fixtures are suspended above the intersection using a custom-made stainless steel catenary wire, with signal sent via a special-purpose intertwined DMX512 and 24V power cable. A stainless steel mesh sits over the top of the cabling keeping everything in place.
A control box sitting on the east corner of the intersection houses an Enttec DMX Streamer with an in-built time clock, which is used to trigger the subtle light changes over 432 channels of DMX512. The bi-directional DMX/RDM signals are distributed through a pair of Tec Art RDM DMX splitters.
While it’s quite hard to imagine when looking at it, the entire project was preassembled offsite. Electrical Contractor, The High Access Group, put the whole web configuration of wire and cable together, including the custom housing brackets. This allowed the structure to be installed into place first, and the fixtures then screwed into the housing afterwards. The fixtures themselves were DMX pre-addressed offsite and had to be placed in very specific locations following CAD drawings supplied by Lightmoves.
A colour-changing light show above a busy intersection may be a great sight for pedestrians and even passengers, but for drivers, it could have proven to be just too dangerous. Keeping this in mind, the programming of the light changes was subtle to avoid driver distractions.
Lightmoves programmed the lighting sequences offsite, as explained by programmer Mark Hopkins: “We chose to program the installation using GrandMA on PC as we could use its wireframe visualiser to program the sequences in the office and work through them with the client without the need to go onsite and turn the system on. By using a range of group, colour and effect presets we were able to program the sequences with ease.”
PICKING THE RIGHT MOMENT
Needless to say, Lonsdale Gateway is one of the most ambitious feature lighting installations ever undertaken over an intersection in Australia. The installation process was a difficult one, and saw many late night and early morning shifts for the contractor High Access Group, and Lightmoves Project Coordinator Aaron Binion “Due to the fact this was above a major intersection in Melbourne, installation and fault finding was difficult. The install had to be done over a few days and in the wee hours of the morning. We had to close the intersection which of course couldn’t happen in the middle of the day, so all testing and fault finding was a drawn out process.”
With this less-than-subtle gateway marker in place, you’d be hard-pressed to pass through the Greek Precinct these days and not realise where you were. Hopefully for the Greek community and the businesses currently trading there, it’s only a matter of time before this rejuvenation sparks interest from new business ventures, and the precinct develops a reputation that will rival many of its cultural counterparts.
Project Director: Ian Dryden from the City of Melbourne (www.melbourne.vic.gov.au)
Electrical Engineer: Webb Australia (www.webbaustralia.com.au)
Lighting Consultant: Webb Australia
Lighting Supplier & Programmer: Lightmoves (www.lightmoves.com.au)
Luminaire Design & Manufacturer: Space Cannon Australia (www.spacecannon.com.au)
Electrical Contractor: The High Access Group (www.highaccesshire.com)