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Riverside Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

Issue 62 Aug/Sep 2011 : Retail : Museum


Zaha Hadid’s clean-lined, open-ended design for Glasgow’s new Riverside Museum posed a number of lighting challenges.

Standing at the confluence of the Clyde and Kelvin, the Riverside Museum, ‘Scotland’s new Museum of Transport and Travel’, bares the increasingly familiar hallmarks of a Zaha Hadid creation. Shaped like a giant wave of extruded metal, the building – with its folded profile and doglegged footprint - is a reflection both of the site’s industrial history and its riverside location.

Conceptually, the museum forms a link between the river and the city; a giant tunnel that joins a public square at the northern entrance with the Glenlee, the historic ship moored at the quayside, to the south. To heighten this sense of connection, Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) wanted to keep the end section of the building visually ‘open’ by glazing the north and south facades. During the tender process, they worked with Buro Happold, whose specialist lighting department Happold Lighting conducted daylight analysis and developed an initial lighting concept for the project - considering energy use, ease of maintenance and uniform lighting for circulation purposes. Their annual exposure levels analysis also helped assist the museum’s curators in their decision on locating exhibits within the space – enabling them to ensure the more light-sensitive pieces could be protected, with light reduction glazing on the south facade and to a lesser degree on the north side of the building.
Post Tender in 2009 ZHA appointed Inverse Lighting to develop the scheme and take it through to construction, though Buro Happold continued to engineer and design the building lighting with support from Happold Lighting right up to completion.

In particular, ZHA wanted Inverse to explore ways of bringing out the ceiling’s sweeping parametric waves without interrupting its clean lines. The initial scheme proposed that projectors be hidden behind vertical grills at the east and west walls, with large light towers running down the central spine of the main hall to provide additional uplighting, but this had been thought too visually disruptive.

A suspended system of linear or point sources was considered but quickly dismissed. So too was the idea of a linear continuous light source, held from one side of gables, that would uplight one side of the pitched ceiling more intensely than on the other. This would have required a significant supporting structure and cable containment running the full length of the main exhibition hall.

Rather than discounting a continuous linear solution completely, Inverse began to look at ways of adapting the moulded GRG ceiling panels to accommodate slot-recessed fixtures. After carrying out a series of mock-ups they decided on a 120mm wide ceiling channel with a single line of high output cold cathode. The lamp sits flush with the front of the slot to maintain a sharp outline while minimising shadowing. With drivers and cables concealed behind the panels, the lighting fits effortlessly into the design, emphaising rather than interrupting the ceiling’s organic waves.

Having solved this problem, the team then had to consider the large windows at either end of the building.

Several daylight calculations and mock-ups were carried out to establish what would be the optimum level of transparency without having an adverse impact on the exhibits in terms of cumulative light exposure. The artificial lighting was then designed to create a gentle transition from the daylight outside to the internal exhibtion space. 

For the external scheme, Inverse was charged with creating a coherent nightscape with the museum as its focal point – accentuating its unique form and visually tying it with the Glenlee. Spotlights were placed along the length of the roof, sitting in the gutters between its folds to emphasise its undulating form. Along the building façade, dimmable linear fluorescents are positioned within the soft landscaping around the base of the building. The intention was to allow dark and illuminated areas to overlap on the elevations to provide contrast and imply depth - accentuating the geometry with fewer luminaires.

Outside the north entrance, Event Square is served by both cool and warm white floodlights mounted on a single 16-metre column. This allows the lighting to be adapted depending on the occasion.

Illumination of the glazed north and south facades was kept low, allowing the internal lighting to shine through, and vertical lighting elements were kept to a minimum to ensure a clear view of the building.
The Glenlee forms an essential part of the building’s nighttime identity - in particular as part of the view from the BBC’s new Scottish HQ across the river. Spot projectors were placed in purpose-made wooden crates located on the decks to illuminate the rigging and cross-masts and narrow beam spots positioned on the crows nest platforms highlight the masts. The hull is illuminated by linear LEDs fixed below the handrail.
Projectors were fitted to the South Quay wall with hinged brackets to indirectly light the port side of the ships hull, creating a water ripple effect.

Exhibition designers Event Communications turned to DHA Design to create a lighting system, predominantly ground mounted, that would provide suitable highlights and contrast to the exhibits and collections.
Blending the colour temperatures of the various light-sources used with the daylight entering from the glazed facades was a key challenge. DHA chose 4000K fluorescents and 3000K LED and metal halide sources, to work with the 4500K cold cathodes in the ceiling (as agreed with Inverse Lighting). The resulting balance in both terms of colour and light levels works well, rendering the natural colours of the objects and allowing the changing play of light through the building to be enjoyed as the day progresses.

Event created a modular display system that can be formatted to suit each exhibit  - either wrapping around larger pieces, or creating a supporting plinth for smaller items.

For the larger (locomotive sized) vehicles on display, a low profile, ground mounted, backlit glass barrier has been used to form a perimeter around the piece. DHA used Osram (lumiluxe delux 840) T5 tubes with dimmable ballasts in linkable fittings made by Encapsulite. These stretches of backlit glass provide an appealing sheen on the reflective paint finishes of the vehicles.

The smaller pieces are usually accompanied by a description relating to specific element of the display. Here, spots are used to pick out the pertinent elements – piston or engine part – to emphasise this narrative.

Mike Stoane Lighting engineered a fullyadjustable ‘pop-up’ spot with 3 x 2W LEDs in a variety of beam angles, that could be used as a recessed or surface mounted luminaire. For the larger displays where a linear fitting was appropriate the 2W LED was incorporated in various lengths of channel, and for smaller features a miniature LED channel was used. All the LEDs are dimmable, have interchangeable lenses and a positive locking system.

To compliment the predominantly low-level display lighting used, DHA wanted to introduce downlights. With the ceiling off-limits, streetlamp poles were used to mount a vertical stacking cassette system housing adjustable 70W CDM AR111 heads. The individual cassettes, again developed with Mike Stoane Lighting, were rotated to the desired position and the lamp head adjusted (tucked inside the cassette to cross light, or poking out to shoot down). After focusing, everything was firmly locked off and the post topped with a capping piece.

There are some large, high-density displays set into walls so these are lit with a more traditional solution, a fluorescent (through louver) to provide a background wash and rows of adjustable fibre optic spots for highlights. DHA used both tungsten and metal halide light sources, depending on the throws and objects.

Further challenges came with the creation of the museum’s many display cases. The design team wanted the case frames to be as slim and unobtrusive as possible, and the case ceilings to be clear glass. The design precluded the use of fibre optics, so DHA designed a flexible LED system that can swap between a LED strip giving a soft wash of light, and a strip that is mounted with adjustable LED spotlights for highlights. The strips sit in slots punched into the frames, are interchangeable and can be blanked out where light is not required. The small wires can be daisy-chained and all run back to dimmable drivers located in the base plinths.

The LEDs used are the same Mike Stoane Lighting strip as on the small plinth displays. The heat dissipating through the frame rather than the case volume and there is no colour shift on dimming.

Along with the modular plinths and showcases, Event Communications has devised an array of eyecatching displays. A suspended metal mobius strip provides a mounting track for a procession of bicycles, illuminated with a continuous run of high output LED tape set into the curved channel.

Traxon LED panels and ‘pop-ups’ are used to illuminate a series of bikes in an interactive ‘Top-Trumps’ style game; and Traxon strips are used to illuminate the expansive wall of cars.

To the side of the main hall, an early 20th century Glasgow street has been recreated complete with cobbled road, shops and amenities. All the units feature period light fittings that match (as closely as possible) the actual light fittings from the research information. Edinburgh-based RS Robertson supplied numerous pendants and shades, all of which are fitted with a long-life energy saver Osram tungsten lamp and then dimmed. A number of audio ‘stories’ can be told in the street, and the lighting is able to change from day to night and highlight specific objects as required.

Overhead catwalks with continuous mounting and circuit outlets run above the facades to allow the museum future flexibility. The street is covered in both cool and warm soft break-up washes - Source 4 Junior Zoom, and highlights are provided by ETC Source 4 Pars. The ceiling is uplit with Pulsar Chromafloods. The entire system is controlled by a set of Zero88 Chilli (dimmer and relay) racks.

Riverside Museum, Glasgow, Scotland
Client: Glasgow City Council
Architects: Zaha Hadid Architects
Pre-tender Lighting Design: Happold Lighting (Kevin J Grant)
Post-tender Lighting Design: Inverse Lighting  (Onur Sunguroglu, Filip Vermeiren, Nalatporn Sakdirit, Tom Singleton, Panos Ferentinos)
Exhibition Lighting Design: DHA (Adam Grater, David Robertson)

 • Exhibition lighting: Mike Stoane Lighting, Traxon, Concord (Beacon Muse)
 • Interior ceiling: Neolec Cold Cathode
 • Exterior: iGuzzini Woody Discharge+ LineaLuce+
 • Landscape: We-ef ETC 130,  iGuzzini Woody Discharge, iGuzzini LineaLuce,  Aldabra Matrix Street 80, Aquila Modullum Maxi+ Modullum Micro
• Glenlee (Historic ship): iGuzzini iPro, Light Projects Minor 5


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