Newport Bridge, Stockton on Tees

Newport Bridge is a historic vertical-lift bridge located in the north east of England spanning the River Tees. It links Stockton-on-Tees with Middlesbrough and is a short distance upriver from the Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge. The bridge is an excellent example of its kind, with its complex steel construction that dominates the industrial skyline while drawing attention as a striking structure and exceptional piece of architecture. In 1985 the structure was granted Grade II* listed status.

In 2014, we at Stainton Lighting Design Services (SLDS) were commissioned to undertake a desk-top study into the feasibility of renewal of the outdated decorative floodlighting originally installed in 2003. It became apparent the existing lighting methodology was no longer appropriate and the existing equipment was in poor condition.

Stockton Borough Council have a clear strategy for linking the decorative areas and features within the borough, synchronised colour change options to all projects for specialist events, while defaulting back to scheme-appropriate design under normal use.

When it came to Newport Bridge, this meant there was a desire from the outset to provide detailed key focal elements whilst creating dynamic and varied themes.

As a Grade II* listed structure, the scheme had to be in keeping and respectful of this but still offer an alternative viewing experience to the daytime.

In early May 2016 several night-time trials were undertaken to look at lighting options, visual effects and impact from several key approaches.

One key element of our design ethos for the project was, wherever possible, to make the illumination source invisible from the key viewpoints, leading to an ‘inside out’ design ethos to best highlight the complex maze of interconnecting steelwork. This offered varying relief, shadowing and emphasis of three-dimensional depth.

To accentuate the intricacy of the bridge, the new scheme utilised 137 lighting units compared to the original 76. Planning and heritage constraints meant in no way was the new scheme to affect the fabric of the structure. Therefore, no holes were drilled, no welding took place and all equipment had to be removable without residual impact.

In the development of detailed solutions, one of the main challenges faced was to develop minimal impact solutions. This led to the creation of several inventive, bespoke and non-invasive fixing methods. A mix of bespoke clamping arrangements, free-standing units and proprietary girder clips and clamps were utilised. Where applicable and necessary, a long-lasting Butyl-type rubber strip was used to protect the steelwork and paintwork. As an additional due diligence measure, all mounting arrangements were checked and approved by a structural engineer prior to construction.

The delivery of a striking lighting scheme with the diversity to be subdued and modest yet vibrant and dynamic when required pointed to an LED solution. To achieve the required variation for the scheme, a four-channel RGBW arrangement allowing pure white, pastels and various adaptive colours was implemented.

To control the dynamic elements, a fully wired, ‘plug and play’, DMX control system was specified throughout. A wired system was chosen over wireless as the DMX cable is small, assisted with restraints by following existing routes where possible and reduced installation time. Furthermore, this allows any individual luminaire to be independently changed delivering the desired colour palette teamed with dynamic visual effects.

The new lighting has transformed the bridge to look stunning against the river vista from distance viewpoints. It also allows you to immerse yourself within the scheme itself as you drive over the bridge, through the structure. In doing so offering totally diverse, unique and beautiful perspectives.

The careful specification of precision optics ensures the light is in the right place and the scheme has excellent utilisation, especially considering the physical construction. The resulting light intrusion towards the river has been significantly reduced when considered against the previous solution.