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The Randolph Sculpture Gallery, Oxford, UK

Issue 76 December / January 2014 : Retail : Museum

ARCHITECT: Rick Mather Architects LIGHTING DESIGN: Hoare Lea Lighting

The Randolph Sculpture Gallery missed out on the splendid rejuvenation process that brought a new lease of life to the Ashmolean Museum in 2009. A design by Hoare Lea Lighting helped the gallery to level the field.

Situated on the ground floor, next to the grand entrance of the original 1845 Grade I listed Cockerell Building at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, the Randolph Sculpture Gallery houses the Arundel Collection. The collection of Greek and Roman sculptures and inscriptions, collated in the 17th century by Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, is the earliest collection of its kind in Britain.

The Randolph Gallery has long been used for the display of Classical sculpture, its proportions and architecture making it a perfect setting. However, the Gallery had never benefitted from modern exhibition lighting and, as one of the original galleries not incorporated in the 2009 redevelopment scheme of the Ashmolean, its appearance was in contrast to the new galleries beyond.

The project, which completed the refurbishment of the Ashmolean’s ground floor, was undertaken by Rick Mather Architects. It comprised relighting, redecoration, and the refinishing of the original Portland stone floor, together with a return to Cockerell’s original colour scheme, in order to bring the gallery back to its original state.

Integrating the lighting in a way that was sympathetic to the Grade I listed building was important when working in such a historic setting, so illuminating the display objects, while causing minimal visual impact to the space, was vital. A lighting design from Hoare Lea Lighting was created to ensure these aims were met.

The Hoare Lea scheme involved using track-mounted LED spotlights, including the Type X by Mike Stoane Lighting and the DR2 by Remote Controlled Lighting, using track which coordinates with decorative ceiling cornice straps to minimise impact. Special brackets developed for remote control lighting ensure close coordination with the cornice straps and the track system, allowing for a neat and minimal installation.

“One of the key elements of the design was ensuring the cabling and lighting could be installed with minimal impact on the structure and finishes of the Gallery,” commented Ben Acton, senior lighting designer at Hoare Lea Lighting, “and that once installed they would not detract from the original, intricate architectural features.” To ensure this was not an issue Hoare Lea worked closely with the gallery’s conservation team.

One of the virtues of the DR2 spotlight is that it can be controlled via a remote device, eliminating the need for scaffolding, while enabling objects to be accurately spotlit.

With its 6m high ceilings and beautiful alcoves, the Randolph Gallery makes a striking backdrop for functions and the gallery is often used for conferences and wedding receptions. The flexibility to accommodate the various functions and the ability to re-aim lighting was therefore crucial, as was ensuring that the control interface was user-friendly so that staff could fully realise the benefits of the lighting.

High-level windows to the south of the gallery provide daylight, while to the north, imitation windows refurbished with a glass laminate give an opal effect. Linear LED lighting (by KKDC) positioned behind this glass provides backlit illumination, thereby giving the impression of daylight.

The LED lighting concealed within the imitation windows, along with linear LED lighting to the real windows, offers RGB coloured light. This provides a contemporary white light during the day and gives the ability to add a ‘splash’ of colour for evening events.

The controls system, by Mode Lighting, provides day-to-day lighting controlled via an astronomical time clock to ensure lighting is always in the correct scene. An additional keypad allows for manual override for special events. The keypad includes the ability to choose a number of preselected scenes and colours for lighting to the high-level windows.
The events team at the Ashmolean were delighted with the lighting and its ability to give them more control over their environment.

Ben Acton went onto explain that, “Since the gallery has re-opened it has been great to see the staff fully use the functions the new lighting and controls can offer. For evening events, they are keen to use coloured light when appropriate, and utilise the flexibility of the remote controlled lights to maximise impact, from spotlighting dining tables to highlighting guest speakers.”

The success of the project was due to differing factors, some of which Acton went on to hightlight. “We worked closely with Rick Mather Architects and the Ashmolean to ensure the creation of an impressive and flexible space. Collaboration was essential to understand how the museum worked and what was important to the gallery on a daily basis.”

The collaboration was also greatly assisted by the fact that Hoare Lea’s Oxford office was only a ten minute walk from the Ashmolean. “The respect for the building shared by all the team was certainly a factor in the success of the project,” concluded Acton, “I think we all felt privileged to be given the opportunity to work within such a space.’

Professor Christopher Brown, CBE, Director of the Ashmolean was more than impressed by the outcome of the project: “The Ashmolean is delighted with the lighting scheme, the space shows the Ashmolean’s world renowned Arundel Marbles, which are now displayed in a gallery which is beautifully integrated into the Ashmolean’s new Ancient World floor.”


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