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Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Issue 73 June / July 2013 : Retail : Museum

ARCHITECT: Cruz y Ortiz Arquitectos LIGHTING DESIGN: Arup / Beersnielsen / Philips

In one of her final duties before her abdication, Queen Beatrix reopened the Rijksmuseum following its decade long, £375 million euro renovation. mondo*arc editor Paul James paid a visit to the museum in Amsterdam to talk to Rogier van der Heide, Vice President and Chief Design Officer of Philips Lighting, about the project that turned into a labour of love.

Rogier van der Heide is Vice President of Royal Philips and Chief Design Officer of Philips Lighting since 2010. Before that, he was Director of Arup and Global Leader of Arup Lighting, a role that he took on after his lighting design atelier Hollands Licht was acquired by Arup in 2003. mondo*arc editor Paul James spoke to him at the Rijksmuseum to find out the full story...

How did you get involved with the Rijksmuseum?

The Rijksmuseum started its renovation in, I think, 1995, with architect Hans Ruijssenaars of Amsterdam. At that time I ran Hollands Licht, and Hans and myself had done lots of projects together. He introduced me several years later to the Rijksmuseum’s director at that time, Ronald de Leeuw. I got the assignment and started working on the lower level spaces (now the Medieval Galleries and Special Collections) as well as the Gallery of Honour with its combined daylighting and electric lighting approach. In 1999 Mr. De Leeuw announced a design competition to find a new architect. Cruz y Ortiz Arquitectos from Sevilla, Spain, won the assignment in 2001.  I moved to Arup, who had become involved in the concept design of the museum’s mechanical and electrical principles and installations. I reached out to the museum’s director again in 2004, shortly after Cruz & Ortiz had presented their preliminary design. Mr. De Leeuw made it clear that it was not a given that we would continue working on the lighting design. He rightly insisted that the new architects had to agree with the choice of lighting designer, as he clearly saw that the architectural concept of the re-created open courtyards calling for a tight integration of light and architecture.

So, how did the architects Cruz y Ortiz see that?

Antonio Cruz and Antonio Ortiz, we called them ‘The Antonios’, had a clear idea not only about the objectives of the lighting but also about the way they wanted to work together with the lighting designer. I went to Seville to speak with them and found a team that approached the project with utmost care and a profound sensitivity for history, authenticity, and the many stories of the building. The vast building complex of the Rijksmuseum was designed by Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers and completed in 1885, and is very elaborate in its detailing, decoration and aesthetics. Over the many years after its inauguration, the Dutch government had subsequently ‘soberised’ the building: murals were painted white, golden decorations removed, yellow clay stone bricks covered in white stucco and so forth. Moreover, in the courtyards, buildings were added to accomodate the expanding museum. Cruz & Ortiz were briefed to design a ‘Return to Cuypers’ as it was called in the competition brief: a vulnerable approach to the museum, giving it back its sensitivity and from time to time fragile appearance. They wanted to re-create the Rijksmuseum’s attraction: not only as a collection but also as an architectural masterpiece.

During these first conversations I responded that we could softly light the architectural boundaries of the spaces, notably the ceilings, and celebrate natural light in spaces such as the Grand Hall (Voorhal). The Antonios liked that, as it seemed a continuation of their ideas for the courtyards that - in their design - were going to turn into spaces lit with ample daylight, covered with lightly coloured materials, celebrating the original intent of Cuypers to create a glorious centre of the museum complex.

How did you then put together the lighting approach?

Working at Arup is inspiring and privileged because of the vast expertise you can tap into just by phoning up a colleague. The team in London had tremendous museum experience and it was great to make that available to the Rijksmuseum. Together with Florence Lam, at that time leading the London Lighting Group and now my successor as Global Leader of Arup Lighting, I wrote a detailed ‘scope of work’ that was completely based on the ‘Return to Cuypers’ concept of The Antonios.
While Florence developed the first visions on the daylighting, starting with the Gallery of Honour and rigorously working through the whole museum complex including the new courtyards, I connected with gallery designers Wilmotte & Associés to get a better understanding of their approach. Wilmotte was working on dark colours for the gallery walls, and basically looked for suspended ‘racks’ to accomodate fittings. I thought that, by working across disciplines with Arup’s MEP team, such an element could become the ultimate ‘museum gallery machine’ and include speakers, sensors, smoke detectors and security equipment as well as lighting. Wilmotte liked that idea, of course, as it would mean a much cleaner ceiling, free from all kinds of ‘pimples’. A cleaner ceiling would also nicely support the ‘Return to Cuypers’ idea of the Antonios. But most importantly, the ‘light racks’ would enable us to optimise the angles of incidence of the light.

Could you describe what happened after everyone agreed with the lighting approach?

We had numerous workshops and mockup sessions for all kinds of aspects of the lighting scheme. While the daylighting team at Arup in London was busy assessing weather data, simulating integrated daylight exposure in the top level galleries and plotting these data in charts the museum staff and the architect could understand, I focused with the Amsterdam team on electric lighting and started to formulate a vision on the technologies to be applied and a first layout of floating linear tracks suspended from the ceiling. In retrospect, all of this work has been superseded for different reasons. Partly because of the progress of techology, partly because of changes in the gallery layouts, but mostly because we and the museum staff learned so much from each other that later on we started to think differently about the appropriateness of the solutions. The collaboration with the architects, with Wilmotte and with the museum was not only necessary but also fascinating. It was simply inspiring to work with Igor Santhagens, the museum’s project leader for the fit out, and to get the view of his team on just about everything we were thinking of. The interaction offered us countless conversations that were all equally inspiring, and although the museum was closed during all those years, we often met in the temporary wing with ‘Master Pieces’ that remained open throughout the ten years of renovation. The museum world is - in a way - conservative, and with good reason: one can not take any risks with the artistic treasures of global importance. We therefore discussed an electric lighting scheme that was entirely based on tungsten low voltage light fittings. We recommended that the museum use UV filters and IR filters to control damage to the artifacts.

We clearly understood the shortcomings of this choice: dimming tungsten means colours start to fluctuate across the gallery, and maintenance and heat gain would both be intense. However, we also felt that it would be too risky to specify LED. It was 2005, and although LED technology was progressing fast, there was not much known regarding its damage factor and colour rendition did not quite satisfy us.
All these discussions, with Igor, with the Antonios and with Marleen Homan of Wilmotte were fascinating for me, and gave me a sense of really being involved in the project. Besides that it was like going back to school and learning something new every day.

When I walk now through the Rijksmuseum, I see quite a different lighting solution compared to what you have just explained...

That’s right, but this makeover was done only later. In 2006, Arup submitted our vision as well as our detailed daylighting design. This included geometries of the laylight louvres and performance specifications for the various layers of glass and diffusion that together make up the daylight solution. This daylighting design has been realised exactly as it was designed, and I remember some lively discussions because we had to convince the museum team of the appropriateness of it. We proposed a semi-dynamic, or should one say semi-static louvre system: it can move, but it really moves only four times a year during the transition from one season to the next. The museum was interested, but they also considered a fully dynamic system that would be responsive to sun and sky illuminance levels. But Florence and myself were convinced that the visitor experience would ultimately not benefit from that.

Why not?

All these gorgeous paintings made during the Golden Age of Holland greatly rely on one phenomenal natural source of energy: light. The landscapes have the dramatic skies of Holland, and in the interiors, such as Vermeer’s ‘Milk Maid’, the artist shows a real strong feeling for light and its shaping properties; sometimes even as the main protagonist in the painting. How beautiful and relevant would it be, to connect the visitor’s observation of these artworks with the reality of the natural environment outside the museum today?

I explained to the museum staff and Wilmotte that a continuously adjusting daylighting control system would not only be needlessly expensive; it would also attenuate the illuminance variation in the galleries as well as the brightness of the laylights to levels that would be so reduced that most of the time one would not even notice the variations. One could argue that a system like that would disconnect the visitor from the reality outside the building. It would be exactly opposite to what I had in mind. I also remember Andy Sedgwick, who is an Arup Fellow and one of the most experienced museum building designers in the world, joining that conversation with the museum to explain the benefits of the semi-dynamic system that we proposed.
Looking back I am very glad that the daylighting design got realised the way the Arup team developed it. It gives this unique experience of ‘reality’, and one can really relate to some of these magnificent artworks thanks to the natural light. This light puts the art in such a recognisable environment! Many galleries in the museum have no daylight but those that do, their beauty makes up for other spaces missing the skylights.

And how did the artificial lighting design evolve?

In 2006 we submitted our vision in an elaborate deliverable of some fourteen books or so. It’s such a big building! We proposed built-in showcase lighting and track-based suspended accent lighting - both were omitted later. But as I said, that was for the better, because the advancement of technology in the field of LED and a re-worked gallery layout by Wilmotte and the museum required a different approach.

Then you left Arup...

Indeed, in 2010. Many in the industry were surprised. I received some remarkable letters from my peers; I never realised it would cause such a stir! I loved the work at Arup, and I felt it was a very special mission to be the firm’s head of lighting design. I think I contributed a lot to the success in the years before I left, the prizes and the recognition as an artistic team. But joining a lighting company with very strong competencies in research and development, meant that I could have influence again. Influence, that - as I see it - has shifted from the lighting designers in the analogue era to manufacturers in today’s digital times. The Rijksmuseum is perhaps an outstanding example of that: I can not imagine that a manufacturer would take the lead in such a project, even five years ago

It was certainly not a given that Philips would get the assignment, even though the company is the museum’s Founder (largest sponsor). The museum kept this rightfully separated and actually considered many alternatives. But the combination of research, the latest LED developments at Philips Lumileds, and the desire of the Philips team to collaborate with all designers and museum staff made it a winning proposal I think.

With Philips, we first collaborated with Wilmotte and with the engineers of Bronnenberg, to finalise the design of the ‘light racks’. A track-based system was no longer desirable. Wilmotte & Associés had a much more sizable profile in mind that would repeat across the entire museum. I remember long discussions about whether these ‘light racks’ should be shaped as squares or circles. We ended up using both: the circles in the lower level galleries, and the squares (and in very few places linear versions) on the other floors. Mockups greatly helped the team to make the decision, and we spend considerable time in the basement of the museum building where we had - in all confidentiality - a full scale mockup of a gallery at our disposition.

What made you a winning team?

First of all, in an unconditional way I made all resources that Philips could offer available to the museum. Our Dutch organisation provided project management and our product designers got involved to collaborate with Wilmotte. Our team, ‘Iconic Projects’, became responsible for the creation process, and I engaged Beersnielsen to make the new lighting plans and to focus everything. They also focused everything on site. It’s great to see how they have built their own relationship with the museum and began to work much more in the project. That’s a brilliant spin-off one can only dream of.

Another important factor was that we all had the same objective. Although the installation had to be very competitive on cost, the museum’s Head of Presentations Mr. Tim Zeedijk told us: “I just want the best light”. In other words, Tim wanted my entire team to focus entirely on just that, and he really stimulated all of us to think like that. And I think that’s what he got: the best light.

The best light, what does that mean for you?

For myself it means that we provide comfort. Not the comfort of a big meal, but the comfort of feeling you get to see everything, that you don’t miss anything because the light is not good. The comfort, and the stimulation that comes from  understanding  that we present the artifact in the best possible way, and that we connect the architecture, the artifacts, their stories and the mind and memory of the visitor. At the same time, ‘the best light’ means that it is as safe as possible for the artifacts, and that we do our best, constantly, to further improve that aspect. But I realised something else, thanks to the conversations with Tim Zeedijk.

This is perhaps the key feature of the lighting: I wanted the illumination of the paintings and other artifacts to convey to the visitor a strong feeling that you are looking at ‘the real thing’. Just like how the Antonios have accomplished to ‘Return the building to Cuypers’, I wanted to achieve lighting that ‘returns the painting back to itself’. It is very much in line with what Tim Zeedijk told me; he always explained that the Rijksmuseum is about the purity and simplicity of what’s on display; it’s all about the very-self of the artefact.

What were the design consequences of this vision?

In 2011 I finally understood this concept so well and so deeply, that it became clear to me, that only LED lighting could accomplish this. One of the main reasons is that when you dim LED lighting, its colour remains constant. I realised that this would be a critical feature: with all the artifacts having different dimensions, I would be able to dim each light individually, still maintaining a strong cohesion across each gallery and possibly all over the museum. That way, through the profound collaboration with the museum staff, with my team at Philips and with Wilmotte, I got to understand what the lighting of the Rijksmuseum was going to be. I was going to propose an all-LED lighting design. And that was not for reasons of operation or energy savings, but entirely to fullfil the most important artistic ambition: to make viewing the art in the Rijksmuseum a deliberate experience of viewing ‘the Real’.

How could you convince all parties involved to switch to LED?

The thinking up to then was indeed to use tungsten halogen spotlights. On 22 February 2011, we all viewed a mockup of one gallery space. The lighting was with halogen, and immediately after, riding my bicycle through Amsterdam, my head got so full of ideas and thoughts that the same night I wrote the Head Director of the Rijksmuseum Mr. Wim Pijbes a letter. I wrote to him:

“Dear Wim, After we have seen the mockup today, I think we can do much better. Together, we can create the best museum lighting one can imagine. We deliver product design and technological expertise, and your museum adds to that the knowledge of collections, presentation, and conservation. Moreover, you provide the most important: the museum itself, as an environment to implement our collaborative innovation. But I have many questions for you before we can start. The most important are: 1) do you want to form a joint team, and 2) would you entertain a solution based on just one single fitting for all exhibit lighting across all galleries? What I have in mind, is one single light fitting that is so flexible, that you will be using it across the entire museum; any space, any ceiling height, any artifact.”

Wim responded positively, and we formed a team, both bringing together our very best people. We started to explore the possibilities of LED, and were so lucky that Lumileds, the LED research and manufacturing facility of Philips in the USA, was developing a new LED with superb colour rendition at a colour temperature just above 3,000 Kelvin. We worked in a small group, developing the solution until it was worth showing to others. And in October 2011, after six months of development, we could show the world famous ‘The Night Watch’ painting by Rembrandt, lit entirely by LED.

How did the public react?

It was a phenomenal experience. There was a real suspense in the gallery just before the light turned on... It’s such an important painting! The museum had done a fantastic job getting everyone excited; the most important journalists and experts were all there to see how the new LED lighting on that one painting was unveiled. It is a big painting though, and the audience applauded like a real ovation when those sixteen small LED lights turned on. The next morning, every newspaper in The Netherlands reported about the beauty of the new lighting, and the fact that is was all done with LED. It felt very good, of course, and I knew that we were heading in the right direction. I also realised there was still an awful lot of work to do.

... Because one painting is not a whole museum!

Indeed. The Rijksmuseum as it is now has got nearly 4,000 LED fittings that light the artifacts. And there is the indirect lighting in the ‘light racks’. We were facing challenges in the field of controls, and glare was still too much. The integration of the fitting with the ‘light rack’ was not yet designed, and gallery layouts had changed so we had to draw new lighting plans. Moreover, Wilmotte & Associés had some great proposals for the design of the ‘light racks’, that have become much larger that the original proposal by Arup where they were simply made of 3-phase track with a high flange. My team continued the design work, both with the help of computers and 3D software as well as exploring what the solutions could be. I will never forget how Brad Koerner demonstrated a small metal ring inside the fitting’s reflector, effectively taking away all unwanted spillight. It’s now in all 4000 spotlights, and we call it the ‘bradguard’.

It seems it was quite a comprehensive assignment all together...

Well, we had a team focusing on the product design and the integration of the fitting with the ‘light racks’ as they were designed by Wilmotte & Associés, and at the same time we had a team working on the lighting design. I contracted Beersnielsen for that. Juliette Nielsen was one of my students back in the ‘90s. She began her career as a lighting designer at my firm Hollands Licht, and started her own practice together with Sjoerd van Beers. They are fantastic. We still work together: on the Rijksmusuem, but also on projects in Russia and on studies we do together for outdoor lighting in Amsterdam. Beersnielsen is one of those rare practices that are seemingly unpretentious yet at the same time consistently deliver superb work. It was a logical choice for me to engage Juliette again in this project.

Tell me more about the last project stage.

You can imagine how excited I was when it all started to come together. I remember how Tim Zeedijk and myself walked through the gallery spaces, with no artworks yet in there, but with many boxes filled with paintings. It was September 2012, and the ‘light racks’ were being installed.

The work then progressed rapidly. We had developed five lenses with nano-optics, to be used with the standardised LED gallery fitting; it meant that the same fitting could be installed everywhere, just like how I envisioned it in the letter to Wim Pijbes. The ceiling heights range from three metres in the medieval galleries to eleven metres or so in the Night Watch gallery, so you can imagine how these lenses perform! It enabled the Beersnielsen team to work efficiently: they could exchange a light weight, plastic lens and change each beam angle that way, instead of replacing a whole fixture.

As every fitting can be dimmed individually, the control system was very important. The system architecture allows control of the lighting wirelessly with an iPad. This is particularly important because you can stand on the floor and see the dim levels from the viewpoint of the visitor. Everything we do is about how the visitor experiences the galleries.

And then, the opening...

Well, not quite. The lighting was not ready once the general exbition lighting was completed. There are many specials all around the building and they still had to be taken care of. There are historic dolls houses, and rooms where we had to suggest daylight falling through the window. There are chandeliers for which candle substitutes had to be found. There is a library and there are many other spaces. Beersnielsen took the assignment to work on all of that. For the dolls houses, we worked very closely together. My team at Philips created miniature spotlights, no larger than the tip of your finger, as well as a fragile metal structure to integrate these mini fittings inside the showcases that contain those magnificent dolls houses. It’s one of my favorite lighting solutions in the Rijksmuseum and Vincent van Montfoort at Philips did a great job!

We also worked on the outdoor lighting. Our lighting designers Petra Hulst and Brad Koerner worked together with the City of Amsterdam and the Museum to create a gentle, white, grazing lighting solution for the brilliant facades of the Rijksmuseum. There is so much to see in those facades: the beautiful mosaics, of course, but there are also many witty details that architect Pierre Cuypers put in, almost like a naughty boy... Come and spot these for yourself!

When Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands opened the museum, of course it was all ready. Experts and visitors alike are both impressed: this is the largest museum project in the world that is entirely lighted with LED technology. In the Gallery of Honour and the Golden Age galleries, the LED lighting beautifully blends with the daylight designed by Arup. In other places, the light is even more subtle, because we light photographs, or drawings. In the galleries of the Special Collections, it is dramatic, even theatrical. The magical thing is: it’s always the same LED fitting yet everywhere ‘the light follows the art’. The ability to be so cohesive yet accomodate so many different artifacts and experiences is perhaps the greatest achievement of this lighting project and exactly the intent I had in mind.

What’s next, after you have completed this immense project?

Oh there are so many things going on! There is quite some interest from museums from all over the world, to come and see the Rijksmuseums’ LED lighting. And I welcome lighting designers to come of course, and to walk the galleries together with me or with someone from the team. We’ll tell you all the stories and share with you all the details.

I still really enjoy the museum itself. I go almost every day when I am in Amsterdam, just to see the art, to enjoy the spaces, the colours of Wilmotte and the beautiful daylight. Just to see how much the visitors enjoy the stories of the artifacts. And then I think how fortunate I am, and how lucky it was that I decided not to give in, and that I wrote that letter to Wim Pijbes, on 22 February 2011, setting out the ambition of just making the very best light one can imagine.


Daylight Thinking

Arup was responsible for the daylighting and early integration of the artificial lighting design...

The original design of the Rijksmuseum by Pierre Cuypers relied heavily on daylight, with generous rooflights and tall windows providing illumination to the primary display galleries. But during the 20th century the skylights were increasingly seen as problematic due to overheating and water ingress, and conservation concerns regarding high light and UV levels in some spaces. Many skylights were partially or fully covered. The major refurbishment that began in 2003 offered an opportunity to address these issues in a holistic manner.

In 2005, Arup was commissioned for both daylighting and electric lighting design service for the Rijksmuseum. Collaborating closely with Cruz y Ortiz, Arup developed a lighting vision and concept based on an integrated daylight/electric lighting approach after drawing up a detailed design brief with the client in 2005 for the exhibition spaces and the courtyards.

The gallery exhibition electric lighting design was further developed collaboratively by Philips Lighting and BeersNielsen, working together with Bronnenberg engineers for the detailing of the suspended light racks after a design by exhibition architects Wilmotte & Associés


The lighting design team analysed the expected daylight levels and determined the various options for maintaining appropriate vertical and horizontal illuminance levels in the galleries as daylight varies through the year. This was done by comparing static and adjustable window and skylight treatments, with the aim of avoiding over-exposure from natural light throughout the year but also maximising the daylight experience in the spaces, and then studying, together with the architectural and restoration team, how this could be best achieved within each space.

The galleries

On the upper floor, daylight is admitted through laylights in the ceilings and transparent skylight sections in the roofs. New climate control systems have been introduced within many of these loft spaces to improve the stability of temperature
and humidity within the galleries. To determine the effect of this on the galleries beneath, the uniformity of the daylight on the glass of the laylights was analysed; various options were studied by the use of scale models, and visualised and calculated using Radiance raytracing software.

The final solution consisted of replacing the glazing of the horizontal laylights above the galleries and the skylights in the roof above, and fitting the skylights with adjustable louvres on the interior, which are set four times a year in line with seasonal daylight availability. In the cavity between the laylights and the skylights, fluorescent lighting fixtures were mounted to ensure an even light distribution and the required light levels when there is insufficient daylight; these luminaires are linked to a daylight sensor. The result is gallery spaces with homogenous light flowing in from above.

The museum’s requirement for ever more wall space for the artworks resulted in the vertical windows on the intermediate and ground levels being maintained only at crucial viewing points from the building to the outside or across the courtyards, with other windows being closed and used as surfaces for hanging paintings or exhibiting other artwork. As a result, daylight came to play only a minor role in lighting these spaces, and electric light was the main focus.

With the renovation, the original vaulted ceilings in the galleries were again exposed, and the electric lighting had to be designed to align with this restored architectural expression. In early discussions between Arup, the museum and the exhibition designers Wilmotte, it was decided to have a suspended rack system for the lighting, which was later designed and detailed by Wilmotte, Bronnenberg and Philips Lighting. The indirect lighting in the rack accentuates the vaulted spaces and creates a homogenous, shadow-free, overall illumination. On the undersides of the racks, individual spotlights are mounted to illuminate the various art objects. For the upper galleries the electric lighting supplied by the fluorescent lighting behind the laylights is integrated with recessed tracks along the edge and in the centre of the laylights. These three tracks allow for flexible fixture mounting and ensure that the correct angles for lighting the artworks can be achieved.

The display case design created by Wilmotte does not include integrated lighting, but relies on the artworks in the cases being lit from the rack and track systems above. To facilitate this, the cases had to be designed to be as transparent as possible, with special non-reflective glass. The display cases in the Asian Pavilion do have integrated lighting with a diffused glass top that makes the edges disappear.


In the courtyards, daylight was less critical in terms of conservation, as no light-sensitive artwork is present; here the focus was on creating attractive environments for both visitors and employees, as the courtyards contain the entrance halls, visitor information booths, ticket sales, ticket control, and similar functions.

During the day the courtyards receive ample daylight through the skylights, which was demonstrated by the corresponding daylight factor calculations. At night the challenge was to incorporate electric lighting, but discretely, in a way that enhanced the attractive setting but without damage to the original façades. The solution was to integrate the lighting in the large suspended architectural objects – chandeliers; that combine acoustic and lighting in one element. The chandeliers are made of vertical acoustic panels and their design was adapted to incorporate small uplight fixtures to create a large glowing volume at night. The spotlights concealed in the underside of the structure provide lighting down onto steps, counters and the courtyard space in general.

The connection between the courtyard underneath the central entrance houses the coat check and the ticket office is lit using recessed architectural lines of light that accentuate the connection between the two courtyards, turning this relatively low space into a comfortable area to be in.

Fine Detail

Beersnielsen was responsible for the detailing and tuning of the custom lighting solutions...

Beersnielsen lighting designers first got involved with the project in March 2012, after the Rijksmuseum had chosen Philips as its partner. At that moment Philips was developing a LED fixture especially for the lighting of the exhibitions and the studio was asked to make the final lighting plans. With these plans the total number of spots, their positions and the lenses were determined. One of the set goals for the total lighting design of the Rijksmuseum was to achieve consistency in the quality of the light through out the whole museum and improve the simplicity in execution and maintenance by using only one type of spot fixture.

With only two engineering samples at their disposal there was little opportunity for mock ups. The biggest challenge was that only one type of fixture had to be used at different heights ranging from three to almost ten meters. To learn about the characteristics of the fixture, the samples were tested on site measuring the output when used at different distances and with different lenses.

Based on the outcome of these tests, main lighting principles were set up for each collection. This, combined with the impressive package of drawings made by Wilmotte and Cruz y Ortiz with detailed information of the 8,000 artworks for each of the 80 exhibition spaces, resulted in the final lighting layout plan that was realised in only two months. The drawings showed the positions of the fixtures and what they where aimed at, the type of fixture (with mono point fixing or with rail adapter) and the needed lenses to make different beam angles. With this information Philips could proceed to produce the final amount of 3,640 fixtures and 2,500 lenses.

Custom lighting solutions

Beersnielsen was also responsible for the design and detailing of custom lighting solutions for several special objects which individually took a lot of time, testing and care. This included:
• Developing the lighting racks for the two 17th century  dollhouses, four evenings of trials and measuring resulted in the design of two racks with 27 custom made individually dimmable LED fixtures.
• Finding the right LED candles to fit the fragile glass chandelier in the Kopskamer.
• Achieving the ‘daylight’ feeling in the Beuningkamer through the three big windows.
• Lighting the sensitive dresses more dramatically in the special collection.
• Finding the right material and solution to for the backlighting of the medieval stained glass panels.
Beersnielsen also contributed, working closely in a team with Philips, Bronnenberg and Wilmotte, on the detailing of the chandeliers in the main hall and staircases and the fixtures for the reading tables in the library, making the lighting calculations and proposing the right diffuser material.

Aiming and tuning the light

In November 2012 the first batch of spots were delivered. The spots first had to be addressed for the Dali system and put into place according to the drawings this was done by Philips partner Toverli. After installation Beersnielsen aimed the fixtures, added lenses and if necessary repositioned the fixtures when, for example, art was relocated in the galleries. As a Dali system was used for dimming, the relocation, adding of extra fixtures and removing spots needed some extra effort.

The tuning of the light consisted of aiming the fixtures and shaping the light by adding the lenses per artwork and choosing the right positions avoiding unwanted shadows, glare and reflections. Finally the light levels were tuned to not exceed the maximum amount of lux levels tolerated and was also balanced with the light levels of the surrounding objects and the spatial lighting created with the uplights and lay lights. In the process of tuning the light the input of the curators was crucial.

Beforehand the curators were asked what the desired atmosphere of the collection would be, which objects needed to be highlighted, which objects were sensitive to light and so on. As a final step, the ‘fine-tuning’ was done together with the curators. Following these steps each collection got its own atmosphere whilst balance was created throughout the whole museum.

On the ground level the Special Collections galleries with low vault ceilings needed to feel like a treasury. The light was therefore focused only on the objects using no additional spatial light making the objects stand out. On the other hand in the galleries of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, also located on the ground floor, the vaults were illuminated and thus enhanced the medieval ambience of the exhibition.

On the first floor where the 18th and 19th century collection are on show a more spatial, romantic and elegant lighting was preferred. The light, in combination with the colour on the walls provides a warm atmosphere, without explicitly highlighting every individual work of art.

At the Gallery of Honour and the 17th century collections on the second floor, a daylight feeling was important as this was part of the ideology of the architect of the building Pierre Cuypers. The diffuse cooler light from the lay lights is balanced with the exhibition lighting in such a way that the spotlights are almost invisible. The warm light appears to come out of the paintings themselves.

On the third floor, the 20th century collection is presented in a white modernistic space. Here the lighting is even and smooth using wide beams to light the art works.

At the newly designed Asian pavilion the light adds to the feeling of peace and contemplation but also ads a little sparkle and theatrical expression to some of the main objects like the two Japanese temple guards.

NEW technology

The new technology has provided us with new possibilities and advantages tuning the light. The exchangeable lenses made it very easy to light each artwork to its best. The consistent colour through dimming made it possible to achieve a great balance within the total lighting scheme. And the remote dimming of the spots and uplights (DALI) either individually or per group of fixtures made it possible to tune the light real time, making the changes visible not only to us as lighting designers but most importantly to the curators and decision makers. It was of key importance that the museum staff was involved in the fine tuning of the light so the lighting plan became the lighting plan OF the Rijksmuseum, and not a plan FOR the Rijksmuseum.




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