Re-envisioning an iconic building with a new interplay (or play) of lighting layers; bringing depth of design, clarity of use, and introducing a dynamic quality that allows for light to dance across and for the the building to be reimagined each night.

Rooted in the ethos “omnia omnibus ubique”—translating to “all things for all people everywhere”—Harrods department store in London transcends cultures, languages and continents. Since its founding almost two centuries ago, the institution has become an iconic British staple, as well as an international marvel, attracting residents and tourists alike to experience the magic of all things Harrods.

Over time, the 12,000 bulb lights strung across its exterior have become an integral component of the store’s famous façade. However, the original lighting—which was first installed in the 1950s as part of a temporary Christmas installation—only illuminated one part of the building. The temporary display became permanent in the subsequent years, but additions to the installation lacked regard for the lighting’s impact on the entire building, causing the details of an ornate architectural marvel to disappear at night.

L’Observatoire International’s design for the upgrade of Harrods’ façade lighting ushers the department store into the future. New LED technology modernizes the building’s exterior, reducing maintenance needs and enabling dimmability, while respecting Harrods’ legacy by maintaining the building’s historic character.

L’Observatoire drew upon Harrods’ core values in the updated lighting plan, beginning with “take pride,” which prompted the team to retain the iconic festoon lighting in the new design. Replacement fixtures are color changing, transitioning from warm white to cooler white over a nightly cycle, and taking on colors for special events.

Festoon lighting is supplemented by a new layer of architectural lighting, which reveals the building’s layers and history, enabling the Harrods story to be played out across the façade in a new way. Additionally, layers of light create a sense of hierarchy for the building and its uses, which also helps express the activity within the department store. For example, denser portions of the lighting design are located at the building’s two wings and center, providing the public with subtle reminders of the store’s uses at night.

Together, the updated festoon lighting and architectural lighting activate the street level and first floors of the store, engaging people outside and visually grounding the façade, while creating a strong base from which the building rises. Rethinking the festoon lighting’s placement on the façade, as well as careful consideration of the placement and density of new architectural lighting, enabled L’Observatoire to curate a modern experience that also respects the building’s iconic appearance.

L’Observatoire’s design also provides a final homage to Harrods’ and what it represents, capturing the magic of the interior and having it play out across the exterior, as the iconic bulbs are programmed to move across the façade in a twinkling play of brilliance after dark—creating a fairytale-like display for all people, everywhere.

Architect of Record

Kendall King Scott



Date Completed



Project Leader