Chifley Tower: Lighting Facelift

Australian lighting design consultancy PointOfView

Designed by New York architects Kohn Pederson Fox (KPF) in association with Travis McEwen, Chifley Tower has been compared to some of the world’s renowned buildings, including the Chrysler and Empire State buildings in New York City and the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

Chifley-Tower PointOfView Lighting DSesign
The lighting team gave an architectural nod to classic Art Deco styling, but with a more modern twist. The goal was to create an update that complemented the existing design elements while incorporating more natural ligh

Located in the heart of the Sydney’s financial and legal district, Chifley Tower contains 42 stories occupied by law firms, financial institutions, and major corporations and includes nearby Chifley Plaza, which houses 30+ internationally known retailers, plus a food court and cafés. Construction on the structure was complete in 1992, when Chifley (named after former Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley) replaced the old Commonwealth Government offices. The first tenants moved in that October, while Chifley Plaza opened for business two years later.

Now 22 years old, the building has become an iconic architectural landmark in Sydney and epitomizes the luxury and opulence of the Art Deco era. When it came time to update the lobby area to reflect more modern times, award-winning Australian lighting design consultancy PointOfView was hired to relight both the main lobby and satellite lobbies of Chifley Tower. The team from PointOfView was engaged by the building’s current owners, GIC Private Limited, with whom they had recently worked successfully on lighting the exterior of No 1 Martin Place.

“Chifley Tower has such a strong aesthetic,” notes Mark Elliott, the Principal at PointOfView. “It required not only sensational lighting to rejuvenate it, we designed the fittings to light it with — a totally bespoke solution.”

Architectural Lighting Chifley-Tower
It is the artful mix of uplighting and downlighting that has brought brighter illumination — as well as energy savings — to the Chifley Tower lobby.

The initiation of concepts began with rounds of thorough research into the development of other respected, Art Deco buildings including the Chrysler in Manhattan. The design team searched or inspiration that would help move Chifley Tower into the 21st Century and cement its credentials as a premier building long into the future.

Among the variety of materials used in the foyer in the original KPF design was a collage of stones, marbles, and granites with stainless steel detailing. “We had to freshen the space during the day to enhance the daylight ingress, while at the same time creating a much more dramatic, after dark appearance,” Elliott reports. “It cannot be too strongly stated that whatever we designed had to perfectly match the existing architecture.”

“Fundamental to the design of this bespoke lighting solution was understanding the scale, proportion, and detailing of the building. We couldn’t create the relevant symmetry or rhythm without utilizing this language,” adds Amara Clarke, Senior Designer at PointOfView.

“We washed the foyer’s rear wall to draw the eye through the full height of the glazing and into the interior. By bouncing light off the walls, we dramatically lit the space and – together with up lighting to the ceiling – created a sense of volume,” Elliott comments.

Existing, suspended square lighting fixtures in the wing-shaped lobby were felt to be under-scaled and awkward. As a solution, PointOfView custom-designed a series of stainless steel rings to provide up light to the ceiling during the day and focused downlight at night. It was so critical to match the materiality of the custom fittings to the existing stainless steel detail that the grade of the steel and the weight and direction of the brushing were tested until a perfect match was found. A custom cluster of pendants was designed and suspended over the reception desk to anchor it and give visitors a point of destination.

“The [elevator] lobbies suffered from a ‘cave effect,’” says Elliott. “Previous wall light and downlight combinations had left the space unacceptably dark. The [elevator] lobbies are a critical part of the journey to the offices above, and these transition spaces should not be forgotten.”

A new, architecturally integrated stainless steel beam was strapped through the [elevator] lobbies to connect existing lateral beams. The new beam houses up lighting to visually lift the ceiling and wash light across the stone wall cladding while downlighting enhances the diamond pattern in the stone floors.

The upgrade of Chifley Tower relied entirely on lighting. “This kind of solution can only be achieved through custom-designed solutions, which is the work we pride ourselves on,” Elliott explains. “We light spaces, but we also create beautiful objects to light from. This project demonstrates the effect a lighting designer alone can have on dramatically changing a space.”

The aesthetics achieved at Chifley Tower did not come at the expense of sustainable design technologies. LED and lighting control systems harvest daylight and ensure the transition from day to night mode is energy efficient. The savings gained are estimated to be more than 382 percent.

“It’s amazing to see the change in architecture from the 1980s to today,” Elliott remarks. “But KPF are great architects, and great architecture always stands the test of time. It just took a lighting face lift – albeit a very well-considered bespoke one – to bring this gem back to life.”

PointOfView has offices in Sydney and Melbourne and is currently working with KPF (original architects of Chifley Tower) on two projects in India. ?

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