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Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, Cardiff

Issue 69 Oct / Nov 2012 Retail: Museum


Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales has recently refurbished its contemporary art galleries, using the occasion to upgrade its lighting system to ERCO LED.

The Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales in Cardiff is one of Wales’ finest neo-classical buildings situated in the heart of the capital’s elegant civic centre, and is listed Grade I. The building was officially opened in 1927, and has been substantially remodelled over subsequent years.

Many components of the early building works were reaching the end of their useful lives, and consequently a major remodelling and refurbishment of the existing roof areas was undertaken by local architectural practice Alwyn Jones Architects. The opportunity was also taken to refurbish and redecorate the interior of the upper East wing galleries to provide suitable accommodation for one of Europe’s finest art collections.

Following the success of this project, the practice was commissioned to re-develop the Upper West Wing of the museum to create a series of new flexible and contemporary art galleries for the display of the museum’s collection of modern art.

Alwyn Jones Architects and Arup Cardiff  worked in close conjunction with the museum to deliver the most exciting of contemporary spaces. The refurbishment produced the chance to introduce an up to date, flexible and sustainable lighting system for the new Contemporary Art galleries. As these new galleries would host a huge variety of contemporary art, ranging from large scale sculptures and paintings to audio visual pieces and light sculptures, a system was required that gave the flexibility to be able to light each new exhibition individually.

During the design briefings and lead up to the project, Charlie Upton, Lighting Technician for Amgueddfa Cymru and Lighting Designer for the project, along with other members of the museum’s Programming and Presentations, ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) and Buildings departments, were brought in to discuss the various technical requirements. The design team worked closely with Arup to begin with and then, at a later stage, ERCO to ensure that the new lighting system would meet their requirements.

Upson takes up the story: “I was asked to present to the design team a shortlist of possible lighting systems that would adhere to our lighting needs. Of those chosen, ERCO’s Light System DALI seemed to more than meet all of the requirements, further extending our lighting possibilities in the new galleries. The museum has worked with ERCO before and they have assisted in the design and installation of lighting systems in some of our other gallery and exhibition spaces.”

The bulk of the lighting system, including the lightboxes and lighting control, was designed by Arup and ERCO leaving the choice of fixtures to the museum. The evenly balanced horizontal illuminance from the lightboxes gives the appearance of sky lights with no visible lamps and excellent blending of daylight and warm white.

“The more flexible the lighting system the better,” comments Upton. “We were therefore looking for a single fixture solution that would cater for various lighting scenarios, one where optics were either interchangeable or variable and one that provided individual fixture control. The addressable DALI system and ERCO’s Optec range gave us many interchangeable optical solutions.”

The next question was whether the museum would choose LED over the more conventional halogen light source. The technical and curatorial departments liaised with the museum’s conservators with regards to their use so that they were able to approach the decision from various angles and nothing was left out.

“On paper everything said that LEDs were the way forward, enabling us to reduce our energy footprint and costs and providing many positives with regards to the conservation of our collections,” reveals Upton. “But the move over from one light source that we trusted greatly to a completely new one was slightly nerve racking. The biggest doubt related to whether the light quality would be good enough to light our contemporary art collections. We looked at many LED fixtures from various manufacturers and in the end after a couple of visits to galleries where ERCO had been commissioned to provide LED lighting, we opted for ERCO’s Optec LED range.”

The Optec warm white LED wall washers were selected to provide perfect even vertical light and ensure a balanced contrast ratio throughout the spaces. The whole system is controlled via a DALI system and each gallery wall washer and light box can be adjusted individually. The galleries run on a dedicated on-board 365 day timer for ease of use and to minimise the energy consumption. The user friendly system is totally operated by the Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales staff.

“We are all very happy with the lighting system, the LED fixtures really compliment the ambient lighting in the galleries provided by the light boxes supplied by Stretch Ceilings. Making use out of the flexible optics, we are able to provide even wall washing and variable focused spotlighting in our new galleries. One thing we have noticed with the new LED fixtures is how colours at the cooler end of the spectrum now stand out a lot more than when lit with halogen. Many of our collections are now seen in an entirely new light, forgive the pun. Also if we were to compare the new LED fixture choice to that of choosing halogen, after nearly two years we are already making huge savings in our energy usage and due to their low heat output, our environmental control systems are not having to work so hard, again producing further savings and reduced maintenance.”


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