Lighting up Sydney


Sydney, as host city of the 2000 Olympic Games, is about to step into the spotlight of world attention. Plans are afoot to make sure that her makeup is fresh, her costume neatly pressed, and the seams of her stockings are straight. Included in the makeover is a plan for the decorative lighting of the city of Sydney. Although many of the city's major buildings already have decorative lighting in place and the landlords of others are considering pleas from the city fathers to help spruce up the town, there had been no attempt to create a unified style.

The Decorative Lighting Masterplan for Sydney is not only a framework for a lighting style, but more excitingly a set of technical control standards which will provide for coordinated, programmable lighting changes across the city vista. The system will actually allow the lighting to be controlled from a central location in real time, enabling the cityscape to be painted and played like a giant stage--the megalomaniac LD's ultimate fantasy.

The tender to design the lighting master plan was awarded to a consortium of consultants and designers that included Vision Design Studio, The Cox Group, Judy Watson, Alun Leach Jones, Colin Lanceley, Peter Cole, Belt Collins, B&N Retail, Emery Vincent, and Australian Pacific Projects. Last July a trial was conducted on the buildings in the Circular Quay precinct to demonstrate the design concepts of flexible and changing lighting and to gauge public reaction. The response was sufficiently positive that the city council briefed Vision Design Studios to prepare the specification for a set of design and technical standards, and to proceed with a pilot implementation on eight city sites: the Circular Quay Terminal, Goldfields House, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the AMP Sydney Cove building, the Botanic Gardens, Tarpeian Way, and the Sydney Town Hall.

The master plan requires every luminaire to have changeable color filter capabilities; in some situations this is taken as far as installation of Wybron's Aquaram weatherproof color scrollers, though in most cases the addition of filter holders provides sufficient flexibility. Luminaires used in the pilot project range from Ruud 35W PAR-20s and Thorn CSI PAR-64s to outdoor PAR-64 cans and Selecon Pacific profile spots (ERS) fitted with new MSD 2,000-hour metal-halide sources. The top 17 floors of the Goldfields House office block are also covered by a Pigi 7kW xenon moving-image projector which takes dual 6" (150mm) sprocketed film strips, allowing custom moving images to be included in any lighting program. The projector is located on the roof of the Museum of Contemporary Art, a throw of approximately 400' (130m).

Perhaps the most adventurous aspect of the master plan is the requirement that lighting for each location be controlled by a remote programmable device that can be linked to the city's main control center for daily updates or even on-the-fly changes as part of a live citywide light show. The system chosen for this task was DyNet from Sydney's own Dynalite.

DyNet is an architectural control system in which all lighting changes are stored in the local control devices (dimmer racks, relay interfaces, and protocol converters) and then triggered as events from any control device on the network. Network bridges allow DyNet networks to be dynamically linked together in a variety of topologies ranging from a group of stand-alone nodes, to a site network driven by a local time clock, or even a metropolitan area network of sites supervised by a central controller. The DyNet network also supports load condition feedback to confirm that luminaires are actually operating, essential in a situation where the system programmer may not be able to see all of the sites under network control. Each site in the Sydney network, in addition to its local time-clock controller for synchronized standalone operation, is fitted with a Dynalite network bridge which, through the attached modem, can be linked to the central controller at Sydney Town Hall, when that part of the project is completed in mid-1999. The Windows-based DLight software at the central control will be used to reprogram the controller at any site or can dial in to the modems at each site to simultaneously take control of all sites.

After a rather hectic, fast-track implementation over just 11 weeks, the eight sites in the pilot project went live last November 26, and are widely seen as a resounding success; so much so that it is expected that up to 30 more sites will be added in time for Sydney's center stage appearance for the XXVII Olympiad.