The Power of Catenary Lighting to Transform Public Spaces

At Tensile, we have collaborated on numerous installations of catenary lighting in public spaces.

In the course of our work, we have found that these seemingly simple overhead strings of lights can transform a public space in all kinds of ways – often taking it from ordinary to extraordinary.

Such as:

  • Night-time illumination – allows for the use and enjoyment of a space after dark, which in turn can help boost the local economy.
  • Flexibility – installations do not always have to be permanent. They can be temporary (such as at events) or designed to be dismantled and moved to a new site.
  • Subtle, honed lighting – can be used to create a gentler, more directional spill of light than conventional lighting.
  • Space maximisation – allows for greater use of the space by avoiding the intrusion of heavy poles into it.
  • Atmospheric options – a wide variety of luminaires means you can create whatever atmosphere or vibe you want, e.g. mystical, colourful, seasonal, playful and so on.
  • Scope for enhancements – for example, some lighting installations include suspended artworks as well.

The Power of Catenary Lighting to Transform Public Spaces / Tensile Design & Construct

Installing catenary lighting in public spaces

No two installations are alike, so our role is to design and supply a bespoke wire-rope cable solution for the lighting and/or artwork.

The cables of course need to be anchored somewhere. The anchoring system used will depend on the location and what’s available. In some cases, surrounding buildings or poles are used, while in others a purpose-built structure is needed.

An example of the latter is at Henley Beach in Adelaide, where canopies were built specifically to support the cables that hold the lights above the public square. Some of these cables are as long as 30m, but precision engineering and tensioning ensures they don’t sway around, even in strong winds.

The Henley Square installation has certainly infused the space with an almost magical quality – especially at night when the lights come on and the cables fade into the background.

Another space that has been transformed by catenary lighting is Steam Mill Lane in Sydney’s Darling Harbour. In this installation, the cables support a permanent suspended art display in the form of giant colourful metal sculptures – described as “street-sized jewellery” pieces – and attach back to surrounding buildings. The art pieces provide a focal point during the day, while at night they conceal the luminaires – causing a gentle glow of light to spill into the laneway.

‘Chiaroscuro’ is another catenary light and artwork project that has transformed its surroundings. The installation consists of a series of colourful light-cells suspended above a street in Sydney’s Leichardt.

Some of the Chiaroscuro art pieces weighed hundreds of kilograms, yet in the finished project they appear to be lightly floating above the street.

It can be quite challenging to make a complex suspended light or art project appear simple and easy! But at Tensile we never shy away from a challenge. If you have a catenary lighting project in mind, no matter how challenging, please call us today.

The Power of Catenary Lighting to Transform Public Spaces / Tensile Design & Construct

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