The lighting at the new headquarters of accountancy firm KPMG is an exercise in integration, collaboration and detailing. Lux reports

October 2010 marked the final migration for staff of international accountancy firm KPMG to its new headquarters at 15 Canada Square, London. The move marks the end of five years of planning and development for the company and three years of intensive work for the design team, which includes London-based architectural lighting consultants Light Bureau. The £340m building is now home to more than 4,000 members of staff.

Light Bureau was tasked with providing specialist lighting consultancy services to the 400,000 square-foot, 14-storey building, working closely with interior specialists Swanke Hayden Connell Architects and M&E engineers Aecom to develop a lighting design solution that met KPMG’s brief for permeable space with high quality finishes that reinforce the brand identity and emphasise transparency.

Architectural brief

The architectural brief called for a building with few internal barriers, so Light Bureau developed a strategy whereby lighting creates rhythm and a hierarchy of illumination that naturally renders each space permeable. ‘Wherever you are within the building the lighting always draws the eye through the space, towards the core,’ explains Light Bureau director Paul Nulty. This sense of openness is particularly important because clients and staff mix and mingle on all floors without division. In line with that core philosophy, Light Bureau sought to integrate the lighting into the architecture wherever possible, including the feature elements.

Part of the fabric

All pendants sit in coffers to ensure every fixture location feels deliberate, meticulous and ‘solid’ – as though they are part of the building fabric. Linear extruded fixtures illuminate the entire length of the core wall yet the tolerance usually expected within such long runs of linear fittings (over 50m) is barely perceptible. ‘The louvres have been fitted with special gaskets which perform three functions: they prevent light bleed, conceal flex within the luminaires and ensure they are perfectly straight along the entire length of the core wall.’ explains project designer Amy Weatherley. ‘Specially designed corner sections also ensure the fitting appears continuous around the core.’

KPMG dining area

Fixtures in the dining area are inspired by the fabric in the booths

The louvres were specially adapted and painted white to ensure they ‘flash up’ like an opal diffuser to provide continuity with other fittings while providing higher output ratios associated with open luminaires.

The main atria are lit with linear fluorescent luminaires equipped with specially designed dropped diffusers to provide sideways illumination to the ceiling plane. Each atrium has a stair that supports KPMG’s collaborative philosophy – linking floors and people. Light Bureau placed discreet fittings under each tread for functional reasons and also to create a sculptural element. There are a total of nine atria in the building, providing break-out and informal meeting spaces. All are controlled by daylight sensors.

KPMG hierarchy of illumination

The lighting at KPMG creates a hierarchy of illumination

A light sculpture, in the reception entrance lobby, enhances the scale of the double height space without enclosing it. As Nulty explains: ‘We wanted to create a feature which lowered the perceived height of the void so it didn’t feel as though you were sitting in an empty volume of space while retaining views through from the mezzanine above.’ The solution is one of the most complex structures Light Bureau has yet designed and provides a visual metaphor for the interconnectivity of KPMG’s business.

KPMG sculpture

A light sculpture enhances the scale of the lobby without enclosing it

Striking design

A high level of detail was fundamental to the success of the projects, and this is in evidence in the presentation suite where a saw-tooth multi-functional feature ceiling incorporates luminaires and services such as sprinklers and return air. The striking design is no coincidence and is an example of the collaborative nature of the project. The staggered ceiling allows sideways light from the higher linear fluorescent luminaires to maximise the light incident on the ceiling. LED spotlights provide extra modelling and flexibility to the multi-purpose space.

In the staff dining space, bespoke light fixtures made from bright acrylic take inspiration from the masculine Paul Smith-style pinstripe fabric specified by Swanke Haden Connell in the seating booths. The central servery island incorporates a large ceiling feature. This was developed specifically for the project and it houses concealed linear fluorescent sources which provide a high level of illumination to complement the daylight. Extra LED downlights give accent to the servery counter.

Controlled comfort

The level 14 client dining suite comprises large volumes for which Light Bureau designed over-size feature pendants with mains-dimmable low energy lamps to fill the space with diffuse light and create a visual statement. By using the lighting control system, each dining room can feel intimate, providing a convivial dining experience, and also bright and airy for general daytime use.


KPMG is exceptionally proud of its new building and the interior lighting goes some way to ensuring the staff have a 21st century building that will serve them for many years to come, as KPMG’s Melvin Rose explains, ‘We are very proud of our new building at 15 Canada Square. The whole design team of which Light Bureau were a key member has delivered us a best in class working environment which has met our vision to reinforce and celebrate what we stand for to our clients, our people and our industry. The lighting solution designed by Light Bureau has provided a dynamic environment that is a pleasure to work within is easy to maintain and economical to run.’

KPMG exterior

KPMG’s new £340m building is home to more than 4,000 staff

Light Bureau’s Paul Nulty sums up: ‘It is a real pleasure to have worked with a team so focused on delivering exceptional quality and with a client so enthusiastic about their building. The positivity of the client coupled with real collaboration means in many areas it’s hard to see where the interior architecture ends and the lighting starts.’

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