As an ever-evolving seaside resort, visitors and residences of Brighton have seen many improvements in recent years. One of the latest is the imaginative transformation of a formerly disused area of the city centre into a vibrant new social, cultural, and economic quarter.  

The much-heralded Circus Street development draws inspiration from Brighton’s historic agricultural laines, as well as the urban grain of the city’s older parts. Under the ownership of regeneration specialists U+I PLC, the development benefits from the creative and inspirational approach that the company is known for.  

The mixed-use site includes 142 shared ownership and private homes, 450 student accommodation bedrooms, 30,000sq.ft office space, and food, drink, and retail units. It also features the city’s first ever purpose-built dance space, which will be run by South East Dance.  

Renowned architects shedkm and landscape architects J & L Gibbons were appointed to deliver the project. Working in conjunction with these two key partners, accomplished lighting design practice Michael Grubb Studio was brought into the project to deliver an innovative public realm lighting strategy and detailed technical designs for the development. 

Brighton and Hove City Council also played an important role in the success of the project as PPP partner.  

With a specialism in bespoke lighting strategies and masterplans, as well as a plethora of impressive design projects, Michael Grubb Studio were able to bring their wealth of expertise to develop the powerful lighting design solution for the multi-million-pound Circus Street public realm regeneration project. 

Based on the concept that lighting should be more than just visual objects, the lighting design of Circus Street sought to relate to the surrounding public realm and architecture. With three main gateways into the development, each entrance has its own catenary lighting flow system with a super-sized pendant, shaped either as a pyramid, cube or sphere. These forms, and their materiality, are directly informed by the adjacent buildings designed by shedkm and work to assist those navigating the site by day or night. 

It was also important that the lighting design blends seamlessly with the landscape design that had been curated by J & L Gibbons, while complementing the bold, honest, and vibrant culture of Brighton. Exterior lighting within the site has been carefully configured and includes a balance of both horizontal and vertical illumination. The central core and main square contain layers of architectural lighting, with each complementing the other. This includes lighting of both soft and hard landscaping features, as well as surrounding building facades. 

Michael Grubb, Founder and Managing Director of Michael Grubb Studios, said: “Brighton is such a fantastic place to live, work and visit, and is continually evolving and improving. To transform a disused area into such a stunning place, offering a multitude of purposes, is a prime example of the innovative approach to regeneration that Brighton is known for.  

“The lighting scheme is a crucial element of the success of the project. Michael Grubb Studio was delighted to be given the opportunity to be part of the expert team bringing Circus Street to fruition with a comprehensive lighting strategy encompassing detailed technical design work.” 

The Circus Street site has a strong focus on sustainability and has been working towards a green future. More than 100 trees have been planted, including a mature elm as a centrepiece to symbolise regeneration and growth. The creation of the public realm including public art and associated lighting was put in place to encourage a sense of community and social interaction for those living and working there. 

Rob Sloper, Development Director at U+I, said: “Circus Street is set to become one of the most desirable areas to live in Brighton. It is also appealing to creative businesses and individuals, who find inspiration in the beauty of the built and natural environment of Circus Street.” 

Helen Misselbrook at shedkm added: “Brighton is a very forward-thinking and progressive city, while being proud of its history and heritage. The Circus Street development perfectly balances these elements, bringing together contemporary design with nods to Brighton’s regency elements.  

“As planning Architect, we intended to create a bold yet embedded sense of place to inspire those living, working and dancing in the new neighbourhood.  As Design Guardian, we endeavoured to deliver on our good faith promises made to the City.” 

The project has been ongoing for a number of years, with the initial concept first imagined over seven years ago. With the landmark design now completed, Michael Grubb Studio has been integral to the regeneration of this previous brownfield site. Circus Street is creating over 400 new jobs and will add more than £200 million gross value to the local economy in the next 10 years.

Michael Grubb Studio’s lighting strategy at Circus Street has successfully delivered on its core ambition of creating a meaningful environment that becomes a healthy, vibrant, sustainable community model of city life. The public realm lighting strategy reinforces these core principles by supporting the needs of people, whether local residents, students or business owners operating after dark.