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The Ajax Experience, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Issue 66 Apr / May 2012 : Retail : Museum

Architect: SID LEE ARCHITECTURE Exhibit Design: GSMPRJCT* Lighting Design: LIGHTEMOTION

Lightemotion, the Montreal-based lighting design studio, has illuminated the Ajax Experience, a new interactive museum that tells the story of Ajax FC.

Located in an existing building in central Amsterdam, the Ajax Experience has been architecturally designed by Sid Lee Architecture in collaboration with exhibit designers gsmprjct° who designed the museum scenography. Lightemotion was commissioned alongside these studios, with whom it has collaborated before, to bring even more dynamism and excitement to the project.

Lightemotion has a longstanding relationship with gsmprjct° having designed the lighting on numerous projects nationally and around the world -  most notably the Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archeology travelling exhibit; the Cosmodôme Space Science Center, Aqua: a journey into the world of water; the Historical Museum of the City of Strasbourg; the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai; and numerous prominent museums and exhibits in Singapore.

The Ajax walkthrough experience is an animated museum journey celebrating a renowned sports franchise allowing visitors to discover first-hand what has made Ajax FC one of the most respected teams in football. The visitor begins the journey with an immersive portrayal of the team’s history and heroes. They are then led through a series of playful interactive events allowing them to comprehend directly and value what it takes to become a player.

Francois Roupinian, founder of Lightemotion, says: “Our goal in designing the lighting of this journey was to bring the visitor deep into the heart and mind of Ajax, submerging them in the environment, culture and spirit of Ajax which accompany and guide the athletes on their way to success. It was important to enhance the visitors’ experience, allowing them to feel like a participant star player and contribute to the exhibit, but not take away from all of the luminous multimedia and immersive displays.

“Ajax is one of the most respected football clubs in the world, and it is renowned for its innovative training methods. We have tried to capture the romance of the game and the inspiration behind the cutting edge techniques of the club in our work. We want to create an atmosphere that is dynamic and celebratory, inspirational and exciting, just like Ajax FC.”

Split into three main areas, the Ajax Experience begins in the History Hall. This bright space, lit partially by daylight, presented a few challenges to Lightemotion because of the diversely angled wall and a ceiling with a steep diagonal pitch. Metal halide light sources are installed on structural columns, cross lighting the dynamic wall, while LED fixtures bathe the red inclined ceiling plane.

“When you’re in the space, you don’t notice the lighting,” says Roupinian. “The wall just seems to glow.”

An important element to the design of this space was to create a diverse pattern of lights with fixtures that were integrated into the architecture, out of sight from the public and generating a curiosity as to where the light source was coming from – during the day and especially at night.

The level of intensity, brilliance and clarity of the light was a key factor in the decision to specify LED fixtures and it was important to emphasise and highlight the vast array of architectural features and surfaces. The wall and ceiling is crucial to the architectural design in this area as is the lighting throughout the space. It was important to balance and distinguish the open and narrower spaces to create visual interest; an implied movement and rhythmic arrangement all the way along the exhibition.

When visitors leave the History Hall and step into the Ajax Academy the atmosphere instantly changes. Here, in the confines of a windowless space, black angular walls are a backdrop for both traditional and interactive exhibits. The space is dark. Illumination is concentrated on the exhibits, and here again it is unnoticeable. Philips Selecon Display Profiles, with a variety of dichroic colour filters in multiple shades of lavender, are used throughout this section of the exhibit on tracks. Many of these contain Apollo M-2201, M-2202 and M-2204 gobo images enlivening the angular walls and creating a subtly restrained backdrop of shapes and forms. Using LEDs and halogen, Lightemotion illuminated the showcase displays from within via backlit panels and spotlights while ceiling mounted fixtures quite literally put the spotlight on the visitor as they travel through the exhibition. Hundreds of small Luminergie LED spotlights run along specially designed integrated tracks and light the two large showcase displays underneath the stadium. The showcases contain a variety of apparel, trophies and memorabilia of the club’s history. LED strip lights are integrated into the design to create the ‘lightbox’ effect of the three training field pods and the interactive tables as well as all of the descriptive display counters. iGuzzini square recessed ceiling lamps are dimmed in sequence with a motion detector system and used as downlights inside the interactive technique booths.

Each station is sealed by coloured tempered glass, allowing visitors to engage in game-inspired sequences of the unique training programs developed by Ajax FC. Sixteen Philips Selecon Display fixtures are used without colour filters and twelve other fixtures with warm hues of the Rosco 19 filter literally puts the spotlight on the visitor as they travel through the exhibition.

“We’re giving the visitor a taste of what it’s like to be a famous player. Putting them in the spotlight creates a connection, a relationship between them and their heroes,” says Roupinian.

Visitors also get the chance to visit the locker room and take a walk down the tunnel to the pitch. Red spotlights again make the visitor the star of the show, while red beams create the illusion of the stadium. Fluorescent lamp strips are used for wall washing and grazing behind the perforated metal wall of distinct shadows of players along the passage leading the visitor into the stadium.

The Stadium is an immersive experience and the main intent was to create a fusion between light, architecture, and projections of the of historic football games all around the globe to create a fuller and more enriching experience. A lower portion of the stadium is accessible for people to sit and while there is some light from the other components, the beams and spotlights from the lighting fixtures, in this area a rich combination of reds permeate the space. It is this dynamic lighting signature that showcases and modulates the visual environment of the entire museum.

The final space is the Retail store. As in the History Hall, daylight is supplemented by discreet artificial lighting. However, Lightemotion opted to uplight the merchandise displays to retain the ‘exhibit’ feel and thus enhance the buying experience. iGuzinni Tecnica 6337, 6338 and 6344 fixtures ranging from 20W to 35W in 3000k warm white metal halide lamps with anti glare screens are used to supplement the natural daylight in the Retail Store. Some of the shelves for the merchandise display are also lit by these discreet sources of light to maintain the aesthetic feeling of the museum exhibit and emphasise the architectural wall and variant surfaces in this space. Fluorescent lamp strips are integrated in the design of the three columns to create a luminous ‘lightbox’ effect.

“Our challenge was to create a dynamic solution for the Ajax Experience amidst many different installations and spaces,” says Roupinian. “The key to the success of our design was using only a narrow range of product types - Luminergie, iGuzzini and Philips Selecon – but concentrating on high quality light sources and accessories along with extremely good control of the lighting.”

The result is an exciting museum experience filled with a dynamism that has been created by light, and Lightemotion.


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