Old Royal Naval College

ProjectOld Royal Naval CollegeLocationGreenwich, UKLighting DesignerLight Perceptions, UKInstallerExperience Lighting, UKSubmitted byPharos Architectural Controls

The aim of the project was to enhance the stunning architecture of the former Old Royal Naval College by introducing new dynamic experiences through an updated lighting scheme.

The Old Royal Naval College has great historic significance and sits within the boundaries of a UNESCO-recognised site. Originally constructed as Greenwich Hospital, designed by the acclaimed architect Christopher Wren, after it closed in 1869 it became the Royal Naval College and served as the training establishment for naval officers until 1998.

The former college is now the heart of Maritime Greenwich, a World Heritage Site that is identified by UNESCO as being of Outstanding Universal Value. The site also includes the Queen’s House, Observatory, the Royal Park and the buildings which surround it. Several buildings that form the approach to the grounds are also included.

Therefore, it needed a careful approach to enhance the buildings without detracting from the beauty of the architecture. A review of the lighting was conducted, with a plan to enhance the stunning architecture of the former college and offer a new opportunity to introduce dynamic experiences.

As the Wren domes are the prominent feature of the Old Royal Naval College site and can be seen from the river, as well as from the other bank of the Thames and the nearby Greenwich Park, it was decided to focus on a new lighting scheme to enhance these structures.

The controllability is delivered through a Pharos TPC (Touch Panel Controller) and EXT. Pharos Cloud is also used for remote management of the lighting. The TPC is a sleek touchscreen device, that offers a fully integrated user interface and vast design potential. Utilising a single power-over-ethernet (PoE) network connection, the 4.3-inch touch panel is customisable and offers excellent capacity with 512 channels of eDMX output.

The Pharos EXT is an extension for the TPC. Together these two solutions form a standalone, mains-powered lighting controller with versatile output and show control options.

The control system design was supplied and commissioned by Experience Lighting, which has a comprehensive understanding of the best Pharos controls for each individual project.

The updated lighting scheme at the Old Royal Naval College has truly enhanced the historical architecture, successfully upgrading the College and the surrounding world-renowned site. In particular, the lighting showcases the stunning Wren domes and allows the architecture to become even more iconic when viewed from the river, enhancing what was already one of the most beautiful views of buildings from the Thames.

These notable structures have been immortalised in many pieces of artwork, with perhaps the most famous being the Canaletto painting of Greenwich from across the Thames, with the two Wren domes standing proud.

The capability to illuminate the Wren domes with dynamic experiences is a wonderful addition to and successful upgrade of the historic, world-renowned site. The innovative control solutions ensure that the lighting scheme can be brought to life and adapted to changing requirements. The system is easy to use yet incredibly effective, and the College was thrilled with the results as it can set scenes and programme colour-changing displays of their choice, to mark special occasions,
celebrations, holidays, and events.

Pharos takes great pride in working on heritage projects, taking great sensitivity and care to ensure the lighting is respectful and sympathetic to the site and its surroundings. The fittings cannot be seen from the ground, they are hidden and precisely located to ensure as seamless an installation as possible while still providing a maximum effect, taking care not to disrupt the historical architecture
but to sensitively enhance it with updated lighting technology.

The lighting installation was completed in time for the New Year’s Eve celebration of 2021 as the world welcomed in 2022. Four lights were installed onto each Wren Dome to ensure they were well-lit and stood out for the occasion. A live international broadcast showed an array of fireworks over the Wren domes, enhanced by the newly lit architecture and controlled by the Pharos system, which displayed them in all of their glory for millions to see.

This project was incredibly significant to upgrade and highlight a site with such rich history and value, futureproofing it for generations to come.