Cliff Lighting
Public Realm

Lighting Designer
Martin Klaasen & Stan White

The City of Fremantle, in their strive to bolster the community activities and make the city a more fun place to be, received various suggestions from the public feedback sessions, one of them being to light up the historical cliff at the base of the Roundhouse. The cliffs also have a tunnel that links the beach with the city which has a rich cultural history dating back from the 1800’s fishing history. Bathers Beach, to its south, is also the place where every Saturday in the summer months a sunset market is being held that attracts thousands of visitors to enjoy some food and drinks with family and friends while watching the sun go down. The market has been a huge success and to further enhance its popularity as well as improving public night time safety the suggestion to light up the rocky lime stone cliff and Roundhouse area that forms the background to the market, was warmly embraced. The Roundhouse precinct is also the home of an artist community.

KLAASEN received a request from the City of Fremantle to study the opportunities to light up the Roundhouse area and set out develop an overall lighting master plan with various options and stages with implementation steps and budget implications.  Lighting up of the cliff on the beach side was found to have the best merits in terms of value for money and immediate impact. With a target to have the cliff lighting completed for the first sunset market of the 2014-2015 season, KLD went to work to detail the lighting design.

Public safety and security was a key consideration to the design was the desire to conceal the lighting as much as possible from the general public to maximise the texture of the beautiful limestone rocks. The area is known for its vandalism so it was important to integrate the light fitting in such way to minimise the opportunity to vandalise. The simple fact of lighting up the beach area, one of the tasks the City of Fremantle had already acted on for the footpaths, had already seen a stark reduction in anti-social behaviour. The cliff lighting would only further improve that.  Integrating the lighting systems safely and securely therefore was imperative to the design.  For that sleeper beams with heavy duty metal grills were designed to protect and integrate the lights safely.

KLAASEN set out to carry out visual mock ups with different lighting systems, flood lights and linear wash lights, to confirm the most effective and efficient solution. It was found that the linear lighting solution grazing the limestone rocks from the ground upwards produced the most stunning and visually magical effects. Lighting intensities, beam spreads, locations and spacing between light fittings for the best coverage and visual impact were also determined from these visual tests.

In the initial approach of the lighting design was to light up the cliff with a high colour rendering neutral white light (3000K) as the best approach in validating the authenticity of the cliff and its limestone rock formations, but having the ability to use colour with LED technology we took the opportunity during testing to try out colours which resulted in some amazing visuals. With the markets, the general public and our ability to control and program the lights it was decided to develop the lighting system around an RGB format to allow greater flexibility in creating lighting effects in its completed state.

In consultation with the City of Fremantle and the lighting manufacturer we settled on a system that allowed us to individually control and address the light fittings through a DMX protocol and during further testing we were able to determine the colours that would create the best visual impact. In selecting the colours we were mindful not to go overboard and looked at colours, including warm and cool white light that represented the natural rainbow spectrum. The only “special” colour that was added in the program was purple, the club colours of local footie hero’s the Fremantle Dockers.  When the club plays the town is normally “painted” in purple.  In our original proposal weekdays the cliff will be lit with neutral white light, while in the weekends (market!) the lighting will run a slow colour chase with the 7 colours running full circle in slightly less than 2 minutes.  It was important to have any colour change happening slowly and in a considerate manner as background lighting, not as a commercially flashing advertisement.

The cliff up-lighting was officially unveiled by the Mayor of Fremantle under the watchful eyes of thousands of people on Saturday the 22nd November 2014, the official start to the summer sunset markets. The public reaction has been very positive and supportive with many voicing that they would like to see more of this happening! The buzz in the social and general media that had started in the month leading up to the event after the launch was announced by the City of Fremantle, has continued with many looking forward to the next instalment that the City of Fremantle is planning to further enhance this precinct.  As a lighting designer it has been a very gratifying project working with a committed team.