Guerrilla Lighting

Volunteers take to the streets to highlight the need for sustainable lighting in Belfast city

A 130-strong crowd outside BBC Broadcasting House and not a Pudsey bear in sight. St Anne's Cathedral bathed in celestial light from below. Just what happened in the centre of Belfast last week?

Over 130 guerrilla volunteers, recruited by email and including members of the public, local government officials, architects, engineers and lighting professionals, took to the streets en mass in a bid to help design outfit BDP bring their unconventional approach to urban lighting design to Belfast city.

Targeting four inner city sites, their mission was simple - to highlight the need for sustainable lighting design in urban environments and encourage local councils and the general public to think green. Having already lit up Dublin, London, Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham and Helsinki, Guerrilla Lighting had come to Belfast.

'We intentionally chose these sites to cause a bit of a stir,' reveals BDP lighting designer, Chantelle Stewart. 'Although we had the full permission of the buildings’ owners and tenants, we briefed our volunteers on the exact details of the mission only an hour before we lit them, adding a real sense of immediacy to the challenge.'

The lighting designs temporarily revealed the architecture that hides in even the gloomiest, most intimidating corners of the city - showing Belfast in an entirely new, and sustainable, light.

'Dressed in warm, dark clothing, and armed with hand-held rechargeable torches, low-energy LEDs and coloured filters, the guerrillas’ first port of call was the BBC building on Ormeau Avenue, which was hit with the traditional BBC colour of red, green and blue,' continues Helen O'Connor, BDP marketing and business development cooridinator.

'The next stop was the Belfast Metropolitan College on College Square, before continuing, still on foot, to Buoy Park adjacent to the University of Ulster York Street Campus, and finishing just a few steps away at St Anne’s Cathedral, where both the huge celtic cross and the front façade were illuminated. Each of the locations had been carefully selected in advance and a lighting design created specifically for it in the weeks running up to the event.'

As energy supplies continue to tighten and the global economy falters, the potential benefits of innovative, sustainable design has never been more apparent. Planners, architects and urban designers have often neglected external and public lighting. But as the race for sustainable development accelerates, BDP have sought to promote the issue on a global stage.

The mood on the night of their Belfast leg was optimistic across the board. 'Tonight has been great fun,' said one volunteer, 'and has made me think about lighting around our city for the first time ever.'

'The lasting lesson from Guerrilla Lighting is how much can be done with so little,' noted Richard Smyth, BDP environmental engineering designer. 'Well designed lighting can transform our city’s buildings and public spaces, enhancing our enjoyment of both, while still being highly sustainable.'

BDP have also been working closely with the University of Ulster to equip future students with the information they will need to successfully tackle the issue.

'Guerrilla Lighting Belfast was preceded last month by Light Map Belfast, when University of Ulster and Queen’s University architecture and landscaping students took to the streets to survey the city for good and bad lighting,' adds O'Connor.

'Overwhelming interest in Light Mapping led to tutors incorporating both lighting events into the curriculum of two courses, and therefore further promoting the importance of intelligent, sustainable lighting in our towns and cities.'

Visit for more information on Guerrilla Lighting and for images of the Belfast event.