David Oluwale Bridge, Leeds

Client: Leeds City Council | Delivery Partners: BAM Nuttal | Concept design: Mott MacDonald | Bespoke fabrication & installation: The Light Lab

Dedicated to the memory of David Oluwale, this striking new bridge in Leeds connects Sovereign Street to Water Lane. David tragically died in the river Aire in 1969 after being racially harassed and targeted because of his homelessness and mental health issues. The new bridge serves as a lasting reminder and commitment to equality in Leeds, as well as providing a better link to the town centre for cyclists and pedestrians.

Developed by a partnership between the David Oluwale Memorial Association (DOMA) and Leeds City Council, the 40-tonne bridge was fabricated locally by engineers BAM Nuttal. Glass panels along the length of the 28m bridge depict an owl in flight and are lit up at night. For the manufacturing and installation of the bespoke Spectraglass light panels, a specialist team from The Light Lab was brought in.

The Spectraglass panels are low iron, toughened glass, with a SGP laminate structure inter-layer. There are 16 panels, each measuring 1.5m along each side of the bridge; making it one of the largest external Spectraglass projects the Light Lab has worked on to date. Each panel features a bespoke screen print design to create the desired design intent of an owl flying across the bridge. This is achieved by using high output SPI LEDs, controllable in 115 mm increments to make the changing light effects and simulate the flight of the owl.The bridge features a total of 32 of Light Lab’s KXM fittings, one per panel. Each fitting is split into 13 separately addressable RGBW segments, with each segment requiring four channels (R, G, B and W). In total there are 416 zones and 1,664 control channels. These were split across four DMX control universes, two to each side of the bridge.

The lights are linked to two control boxes in a nearby feeder pillar that include the power supplies and drivers for the LEDs. These are linked to a third enclosure which houses the brains of the operation, a Pharos LPC, along with a modem linking the system to the cloud.

As long-term collaborators with The Light Lab, Architainment was brought in to provide the lighting programming for this project. The lights are controlled via our Archicloud web platform and can be changed at any time. Leeds Council has provided us with a list of upcoming events for the year, along with the desired colour schemes. Our technical team programmes them into the system and activates them remotely. Utilising the internal astronomical timeclock built into the controller. the LED lights are switched on every night between dusk and midnight, with the handrail lights remaining on until dawn, but this can also be changed remotely as needed.

A brighter future

While the bridge serves as a memorial to David Oluwale and a reminder of the tragedy of his death, its bright design gives hope of a better future. At the opening ceremony, Councillor James Lewis, leader of Leeds City Council, said:

“This beautiful bridge is a truly inspiring monument to David Oluwale’s tragic story as well as a powerful and positive statement about everything that we want Leeds to stand for today. By acknowledging the city’s past, we are ensuring that we pass on the lessons we have learned to future generations while encouraging them to strive for a brighter future.”

Photography: Chapman Brown Photography

Drone photos by: Aaron Ethan | Just Dronin/Mark Dobson

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