Light fantastic

ForgottenSpacesNB''Winner Chris Paterson
ForgottenSpacesNB''Winner Chris Paterson
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SIX years ago, police took the unusual step of warning people not to use a dark and dangerous Sheffield footpath.

The stark warning was issued after a 21-year-old university student was dragged down lonely Frog Walk footpath, off Ecclesall Road, and raped.

Two days earlier a 20-year-old man had been robbed at knifepoint there by two muggers.

Now an idea to illuminate the footpath after dark has won a city inventor a £5,000 top prize.

Chris Paterson, aged 30, dreamed up the idea for bringing the path to life with lights.

Now Chris’s idea – Guiding Lights – has won him star spot in the prestigious Forgotten Spaces Sheffield 2011 competition, which invited architects, designers and artists to come up with innovative ideas to find new uses for the region’s hidden away places.

Chris designed an LED screen that uses motion sensors and smartphone technology to detect walkers on the path at night, track their movements and generate bright, colourful silhouettes to ‘escort’ them down the dimly-lit path.

Guiding Lights was chosen from a shortlist of 19 for its ‘brilliant solution’ to making people feel safer on the footpath at night.

Chris, a trainee architect with Hadfield Cawkwell Davidson near Ecclesall Road, chose Frog Walk as his inspiration after hearing many female colleagues complain about the dimly-lit footpath.

“I’m stunned to have won,” said Chris, of Firth Park. “There were so many fantastic designs and the competition was stiff. I was amazed and completely thrilled when my name was read out.

“Do I see the idea becoming a reality? Well, it would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, so maybe not. All of the designs in the competition were purely conceptual, but hopefully they will inspire some changes.”

Judges at the inaugural Forgotten Spaces Sheffield competition – a nationwide contest to generate ideas – were so impressed they have already said they wouldn’t rule out trying to get Guiding Lights turned into reality.

“We hope all the designs will cause debate and delight, and who knows what could happen as a result of the competition,” said John Palmer, of Sheffield Hallam University, which organised the contest along with the Royal Institute of British Architects.

The winners were announced at the opening of an exhibition at the Crucible theatre, where models of all 19 shortlisted entries will remain on display until next Saturday.

Second place went to Oliver Peach for his Wicker Spice design – an idea to develop to an essential oil distillery in abandoned buildings near The Wicker.

Third place went to Doma Architects for their Food for Thought design – a scheme to transform a dilapidated barn, in Millhouses Park, into a self-sufficient community, complete with allotments and a public cafe.

Emma England, director of RIBA Yorkshire and one of the judges, said: “I have been inspired to see such a fantastic range of creative, innovative, thought-provoking and, in some cases, controversial ideas for transforming forgotten spaces in Sheffield.”