ETC Fixtures and Control Add to Immersive Experience at Johnnie Walker Princes Street

After celebrating Johnnie Walker’s 200th anniversary in 2020, the brand kicked off a new century of whisky making with the flagship Johnnie Walker Princes Street visitor experience in Edinburgh. Spanning 8 floors in one of Edinburgh’s historic buildings, Johnnie Walker Princes Street offers immersive storytelling experiences, contemporary rooftop bars, and lively event spaces.

Lighting Designer Manny Treeson of NYXdesign worked with strategic design company BRC Imagination Arts to develop the high-impact storytelling experience at Johnnie Walker Princes Street. The project’s demand for an elevated and often complex lighting design led Treeson to select ETC luminaires and control throughout much of the space.

The building that Johnnie Walker Princes Street now resides in was fully refurbished for the new experience. ETC Mosaic controls help highlight the building’s history on the exterior, with a lighting design that celebrates the landmark Binn’s Clock—notorious for acting as a romantic meeting spot for couples in the 1960’s.

Johnnie Walker Princes Street-2-Credit DiageoPhoto credit: Diageo

Walking into the building, visitors are immediately greeted by the sleek and bold visuals that are a constant throughout the experience. Treeson says, “Everything is luminous, colorful, and punchy to match the brand. I viewed color as a living, breathing part of the exhibit. One design choice that was really important to me is that I wanted light to come from the exhibit. I didn’t want light thrown at it.”

On the Johnnie Walker Journey of Flavour tour, guests’ whisky tasting is paired with an immersive storytelling experience brought to life by multi-media technology and the performing arts. A 10-minute show performed by a professional actor shares the history of the Walker family. Treeson sites ArcSystem Navis as an important tool in the performance.

“ArcSystem Navis was used here because it’s the only color-changing architectural downlight with theatrical quality color. Because it’s presented as an architectural fixture, nobody expects that it will change color,” says Treeson. “Incorporating these luminaires in the show contributes to the overarching goal of subverting expectations. The whole point of the exhibit is that there are no rules with whisky. You can drink it neat. You can drink it with soda. It can be enjoyed by both old and young adults.”

Johnnie Walker Princes Street-3-Credit BRC Imagination ArtsVisitor experience created, developed and produced by BRC Imagination Arts,

The color-changing capabilities of ArcSystem Navis also support the dynamic design in the six-story atrium, carrying Treeson’s vision throughout the building. The ETC F-Drive centralized driving system takes the critical components of the Navis LED luminaires and makes them remotely accessible for support staff to service and modify the system as needed.

Johnnie Walker Princes Street-4-Credit BRC Imagination ArtsVisitor experience created, developed and produced by BRC Imagination Arts,

Nuanced control is also critical in a cubby room displaying liquor bottles in individually lit shelves. Visitors enjoy a 10-minute show with musically generated effects across the whisky bottles. With a pixelated ceiling and individually controlled cubbies, the show ended up using 500 lighting cues. This show, along with many of the other spaces on the tour, is controlled by an ETC Eos system.

Johnnie Walker Princes Street-5-Credit BRC Imagination ArtsVisitor experience created, developed and produced by BRC Imagination Arts,

In the Explorers’ Bothy Bar, a luminous, wooden sculpture serves as a centerpiece in the design. Looking closely at the swirling ribbons, visitors will find the names of different whiskey distilleries. Prominent at the bottom of the sculpture is a whisky dispenser, lit with a welcoming glow.

Getting all the lighting throughout the building to work in harmony was no simple task. Kurt Schnabel of Clearwing Systems Integration was responsible for the system design on the entire project. He shared that in the end, the project used 4,500 individually controlled fixtures, 4,000 meters of linear LED, and 70,000 channels, in other words, 140 universes of control.

Johnnie Walker Princes Street-6-Credit BRC Imagination ArtsVisitor experience created, developed and produced by BRC Imagination Arts,

ETC solutions handled all the control plus data and power distribution. In addition to Eos, Mosaic, and Paradigm on control, 37 ColorSource ThruPower cabinets acted as the backbone for the power infrastructure with approximately 850 controlled power circuits. “We chose ETC for the ability to seamlessly go both architectural and theatrical on the same platform,” says Treeson.

Now that Johnnie Walker Princes Street is open, visitors enjoy both the spectacle of the light-enhanced performances as well as the simple delight of enjoying a beverage in a beautifully lit space.

Visitor experience created, developed and produced by BRC Imagination Arts,
Evening exterior photo credit: Diageo
Interior photo credit: BRC Imagination Arts

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Quinn Wirth
Quinn joined ETC in 2018 with a background in marketing for K-12 and higher education. Studying English in college and tutoring writing across the curriculum fostered her passion for words and weakness for puns. When she’s not writing, she’s likely watching horror movies with her husband or plugging away at her goal of reading 50 books each year. A Wisconsin local, she loves seeing ETC products at work in Madison-area venues she has frequented throughout her life.