Teens help design street lighting for their new neighbourhood

Somerstown teenagers told international street light design experts how they want their new neighbourhood lit at a pop-up, hands-on, interactive lighting workshop in an underground car park.

Young people from Somerstown youth club the Brook Club worked with public lighting specialists Light Follows Behaviour.

Click here to watch a video of the event.

The Light Follows Behaviour studio is part of the design team putting together plans for the brand new city centre housing development which will replace Horatia and Leamington Houses when the Earlsdon Street and Meriden Road tower blocks are brought down.

Esmee Cooper, who manages the Brook Club youth club, which is based at Somerstown Hub, said the event Portsmouth City Council organized in a pop-up venue, in the middle of the two tower blocks, was a thoughtful and innovative way to get local teenagers involved in planning for the future of the area they live in.

“They made a really big effort to get the young people engaged and involved,” Esmee added.

“They used a really adventurous approach to explain lighting in a hands-on and visual style to the point of creating a ‘night-time’ atmosphere to showcase the lighting effects.”

Cllr Darren Sanders, cabinet member for Housing and Homelessness, said: “Right from the beginning of this project we have done everything we can to get everybody involved in what is going on in their local area.

“It’s important to us that the young people who live in Somerstown are at the centre of this process.”

The event was held in the underground section of Melbourne Place car park. The Light Follows Behaviour team transformed part of the venue to create a series of lighting rooms to help explain some important existing lighting conditions in Somerstown to local people and Somerstown teens.

Elettra Bordonaro, co-founder of the company, said: “We had a fantastic time with the Brook Club members explaining lighting design basics but also hearing what they would like to see improved on the site.

“‘Encouraging engagement and discussion about lighting design among all age groups is important to us as a studio.

“The night before the event we took pictures of Somerstown after dark. We used these pictures to explain the basics of lighting to the group and we asked if any of the teenagers recognized the spaces by dark which brought up conversations about relationships with the group and their family and friends who live in the local area.

“We also encouraged the teenagers to use the principles we had explained to them to design the lighting for each room and experiment with different approaches to lighting design.

“With the lighting switched on, we nominated volunteers to start creating the lighting for each space, asking for opinions and improvements as we went. We provided different types of lights including spotlights, linear lights and bollards explaining how they could be used to create different effects.

“The idea of experimenting with coloured light came up in the group so we used a simple blue filter to show the different light effects that could be created and see first-hand how the planting and materials we had brought along looked under the new lighting.

“To close the event each participant took home a swatch of colour for them to experiment with on their own which they were very excited to do.”

The event also included a public open drop-in session, to give local people the chance to look at the latest plans for the site and to speak to the architects and council teams working on the redevelopment.

As well as that; the event involved a pop-up outdoor conference room, which was the venue for the latest meeting of the Horatia and Leamington Houses community panel – a team of local people, resident groups, schools, businesses and charities at the centre of the deconstruction and redevelopment project.

The council launched the community panel in March 2021 following a major public engagement in summer 2019 in which thousands of local people were asked what they wanted to happen to the site.

The community panel has been meeting once a month and is at the centre of the deconstruction and redevelopment project. The panel includes local people, residents groups, schools, businesses and charities.

Portsmouth demolition specialist Hughes and Salvidge started the careful deconstruction of Horatia and Leamington Houses earlier this year. The deconstruction of the 1960s tower blocks is expected to take until late next summer to complete.

If you would like to join the community panel; call development delivery manager Mary Devaney on 023 9284 1791 or email mary.devaney@portsmouth.gov.uk

Watch project information videos to find out more at horatialeamington.portsmouth.gov.uk