Isambard Brunel car park – Portsmouth

Using digitally controlled LED products of the highest quality, LEDextra produced a colourful and dynamic light installation for Portsmouth’s Isambard Brunel car park. The site’s exterior walls have now become a prominent feature in Portsmouth’s city centre, acting as canvases for light shows that change theme with festive seasons and public holidays.

Lighting for the people – Eye-catching urban lighting beyond the utilitarian



About the client

As part of its ongoing plans to “create an attractive public realm” Portsmouth City Council (PCC) approached Dextra Group to design, manufacture and deliver an exterior lighting installation for a key multi-storey car park in the Guildhall area. The council’s aim was to use lighting creatively to help define a “sense of place” and “contribute to the character and identity of the city centre”.

The city of Portsmouth is known for being a pastiche of historical buildings and contemporary urban form. The two, however, do not always find complete harmony. Since 2013, much of the council’s urban planning has attempted to “stitch together” these “relatively fragmented” aspects of the city’s landscape, with “contemporary additions to the existing built environment…adding greatly to its attractiveness and character”. PCC’s main focus has been to make the public realm more appealing to citizens, establish the city’s character and identity, and assert itself as a memorable tourist destination.

Lighting can play a pivotal role in changing our perception of our surrounding architecture without the need to add or remove a brick. By combining high-quality products and the right expertise, a carefully considered design can greatly boost the profile of a city or town – reclaiming areas that were once architecturally incidental or even unappealing by transforming them into vibrant and inviting features for everyone to enjoy.

When lighting needs to make a visible statement, digitally controlled LED technology can offer an extremely wide range of possibilities beyond the utilitarian, catering for even the most ambitious of ideas and aesthetic designs. The added advantage is of course sustainability, as high-quality LED sources have a longer life, require minimal maintenance and offer typical reductions in energy usage of approximately 70% compared to HID or fluorescent alternatives.

With access to the latest, European manufactured, high-quality products, sophisticated assembly workshops, and highly experienced design teams, Dextra Group’s specialist component subsidiary, LEDextra, are fully equipped to meet the unique challenges of modern architectural lighting and were assigned as sole providers for PCC’s new project.

For some time, Portsmouth City Council has discussed the “potential to establish a much stronger an attractive cityscape” in the area around Isambard Brunel Road. A particular concern that arose in masterplans dating back to 2013, was the need to “screen the Isambard Brunel multi-storey car park” which was detracting from the continuity and appeal of the area. A row of semi-mature London Plane trees had been previously planted to somewhat conceal the imposing structure, but maybe the solution all along was to embrace its walls and bring them to life. LEDextra was there to help make that a reality, producing numerous design proposals to help PCC make their final decision.


LEDextra was instructed to create an exterior lighting installation that would illuminate the car park’s front facia of four floors and its main external stairwell tower to the side of the building. The successful lighting solution would need to:

• Make the car park more inviting and visually appealing
• Increase safety and visibility in an area with little street lighting
• Be energy-efficient
• Be flexible and changing, assigning themed light shows to specific seasons/public holidays, as well as provide timed triggers during the day
• Be durable and resistant to the outdoors
• Easy and cost-effective to both install and maintain


Outdoor Linear Systems – RGB and DMX-based LED lighting for colourful exteriors

The system LEDextra specified in this project is a reliable and cost-effective LED solution specifically designed to be programmed for colourful and dynamic lighting effects. It 10° x 50° beam angle gives maximum light coverage and is perfect for wall-washing and grazing effects on to medium to large surface areas.

The versatile luminaire was customised using its full range of available options including deferent lengths and range of beam angles. For the purposes of PCC’s car park, luminaires were supplied in a 1.2 m version, fitted using adjustable mounting brackets designed for simple, secure and flexible installation.

Compatible with a host of DMX (Digital Multiplex) controllers, interfaces and lighting software, the luminaires can now be easily and accurately programmed to produce a range of fixed or dynamic colour-changing effects on to the car-park’s walls and facade.

The luminaires efficient optic design ensures a uniform distribution allowing for beams to highlight the texture of the walls effectively and emphasise the shape and contours or the vertical surfaces.

Another reason for LEDextra’s choice of product was the durability and longevity. Anodised aluminium housing, tempered glass, IP66 (Ingress Protection from dirt, dust and water ingress), IK06 (Impact Protection equivalent to a mechanical impact of 0.7 joules) ratings combined with pressure-equalising air vents make it ideal for and harsh outdoor environments. The luminaire is also resistant to a wide temperature range of -40 to as high as 80°C, making it suitable for different environments and extreme changes in weather.

In addition to its robust construction, the reliable LED sources provide a lumen maintenance of 36,000 hours, allowing them to perform as originally intended for far longer than fluorescent or HID alternatives. Once installed, this durable, high-performance RGB luminaire will require minimal maintenance to run, ensuring long-term return on investment for PCC.