"The exhibits are like theatrical stage sets, with the animals as actors," says Rogier van der Heide, lighting designer for Naturalis, the new National Museum for Natural History, which opened in April in Leiden, near Amsterdam in the Netherlands. This 150,000-sq.-ft. (13,500 sq. m) building, which has 60,000 sq. ft. (5,400 sq. m) of exhibit space, contains a world-famous collection exhibited in a themed rather than chronological manner--a modern approach to natural history. With seven exhibit areas designed by seven different design companies, the lighting becomes the unifying element, adding color, movement, and emotion to the displays.
The principal of Hollands Licht, a Dutch lighting design firm located in Amsterdam, van der Heide is a 27-year-old wunderkind with wide-eyed enthusiasm about lighting. With roots in the theatre (and seven productions already on the slate for this season), he has shifted his concentration to architectural lighting and enjoys the challenge of finding strong creative concepts to enhance venues. In 1996, upon being awarded the contract for the Natural History Museum, he set out to focus on lighting a partially transparent building with see-through walls designed by Dutch architect Fons Verheijen.
"It is a radical vision of museum design, with galleries, workshops, and ateliers for the curators connected to the exhibit areas," says van der Heide. "It is also very alive, not just a gallery for dead animals." In fact, the museum is the public area of a scientific/research institute (Nationaal Natuurhistorisch Museum) with more than 10 million items in its collections. Just 0.1% of what it owns is actually on display; the rest is housed in a 20-story-tall storage tower that is climate-controlled and only open to researchers.
"Some of the objects are very sensitive to light and require low footcandles, no more than 50 lux," van der Heide points out. "But you can't light it all in such a diffuse way." To solve this problem, he custom-designed a fiber-optic lighting system with variable lenses that allow a choice of beam spread. The fixtures are also designed to tilt and pan and hold a filter frame. The LD worked on the design of the fixture with Dutch company Philips Lighting at its manufacturing plant in Orleans, France.
After walking through an entry area that features a display of prehistoric fossils and a three-story dinosaur skeleton with a projection of its body on a white wall, museum guests select their own path through the seven themed galleries. In the Life gallery, exhibits show how animals move, be it in their search for food or in their escape from predators. "The animals are very kinetic and we wanted to show how they move in the air, on land, and in water," says van der Heide. The animals are highlighted by CDM (ceramic discharge metal-halide) Philips MasterColor lamps in Erco track fixtures.
Van der Heide says that Erco, a German manufacturer, won the contract for a major portion of the lighting equipment. "I wrote performance specifications that were not product-specific," he notes. "Many companies bid but Erco could provide what we needed at the right price." Erco fixtures used include the Pollux, Optec, Quinta, and Monopoll. Philips fiber optics, Agabekov 12V miniature track lights with xenon lamps, ETC Source Fours, and color-changing units from Fly of Italy were also specified. All the dichroics and gels are by Rosco, with DHA gobos.
In the water area of the Life gallery, the white walls are washed with tubular fluorescent TL lamps wrapped in blue Rosco gel. Placed on the floor, these outline the bottom of the display areas with a blue glow. A 12m-wide (39') glass display case shaped like a giant wave holds fish and various underwater life. "There is no real water, just the suggestion," says van der Heide. "It counts on your imagination." Inside the glass wave is a fiber-optic system using a 150W HID light source.
The nearby land display has a wooden floor whose color suggests a desert surface. Here lifelike stuffed animals such as cheetahs and antelope play under high-pressure sodium White SON lamps from Philips. These are used in Erco fixtures as key light and high backlight on each animal and fitted with orange dichroic filters. "These are warmer than halogen but whiter than other sodium sources," says the LD, who likes the nice yellow tone these lamps provide.
The Theatre of Nature shows the variety of animals on Earth, with displays ranging from a coral gallery to stages with bears and monkeys in almost abstract settings. "There is no glass so that the animals are very close to the visitors, and no old-fashioned dioramas or painted landscapes," says van der Heide, who adds that this gallery has the largest fiber-optic system in the museum, using Philips 100W HID lamps with built-in reflectors as the source.
For UV control, a custom fiber-optic system whose fixtures have small filter holders was used to light a large oval glass showcase housing the most delicate objects, such as fish and coral. Plastic fiber was selected for its lower weight and what van der Heide considers a nicer color rendition, especially on long runs. The fixtures themselves hang on a floating track 9' (2.7m) from the floor on steel wires outside of the 60'-wide (18m) showcase. The system uses Focus 100 lamps from Philips. "The showcase is sealed for security reasons," the LD explains. "The lighting is outside because they didn't want maintenance technicians inside the box."
Visitors can walk through a section of the oval and be surrounded by blooming plants that are laminated between two layers of glass. The fiber-optic pendants hang outside each section to backlight the plant life from both sides. The fiber also projects shadows of the plants onto the floor, creating the look of life-size foliage gobos. Plants that normally float on the water, like lilies and seaweed, are displayed overhead so they can be seen from below. "You see them as if you were an underwater diver," says van der Heide. A walkway above also allows them to be seen from another angle.
The nearby stages featuring bears and monkeys have Erco track lighting and 12V fixtures (the transformers are under the stage) meant to be industrial ceiling fixtures, but the LD simply turned them upside down to use as footlights. "This gives a theatrical look, like the animals are in the spotlights," he says. The lamps are a mixture of Philips CDM and HID, as well as tungsten-halogen by Osram Sylvania and General Electric.
To block out all UV radiation on irreplaceable objects, van der Heide specified lamps with an invisible coating that absorbs 60-70% of the damaging UV rays. To block the other 30-40%, he added dichroic glass made to filter out certain wavelengths. "We use both for extra safety," he says, noting that this is an expensive choice, adding $35 to $50 to the cost of each fixture.
A gallery called Ecosystems does not have any animals or artifacts, but serves as a theatre for films about different climates such as a rainforest, the desert, the ocean, and a polar region. The gallery changes color at the start of each film, with Fly Trichroma fixtures used for the color and ETC Source Fours to add gobos and patterns. Van der Heide replaced the Source Four's tungsten-halogen source with a non-dimmable 150W CDM for a 9,000-hour lamp life, and replaced Fly's standard 1kW halogen source with a 700W MSD lamp for extra light output.
The Fly fixtures light 12 large fabric projection surfaces stretched like scrims on aluminum tensile frames that create curved abstract shapes in the black space. There are a total of 45 color-changing fixtures, 36 of which are hung in groups of three above each frame so that all the light comes from above. A Conductor show control system from Avenger Systems of Belgium integrates the video, audio, and lighting in all of the galleries, including Ecosystems.
"I used deep, saturated colors to avoid any impression of realism and to give just a slight suggestion of a landscape," says van der Heide, who worked with MET Studio in London on the design of Ecosystems. The saturated colors were chosen to match the themes of the films, with blue for the ocean, orange for the desert, and green for the rainforest. The colors spread throughout the gallery with 600 looping cues programmed in sync with surround sound. "I wanted to create a true mix of light and audiovisual design, using the same fabric elements to create different atmospheres," the LD says. He chose the Fly Trichroma fixtures for their subtractive color-mixing qualities (they have three rotating DMX-controlled glass disks) and smooth color changes. "The colors fade beautifully from one to another," he says.
Tom Hennes and THinc Design in New York City designed the dark theatrical exhibits in the Dynamics of the Earth gallery, a space with no ambient light where the artifacts are dramatically lit against a black background. The theme of this gallery is to show how internal and external powers, from volcanoes to erosion and the sun, shape and smooth the surface of the Earth. To offer visualizations of weather conditions and atmospheric elements, van der Heide put effects disks into a DMX-controlled accessory for the ETC Source Fours and projected snow, rain, and water on the walls (and the visitors) in this walk-through environment.
A highlight of the gallery is a model of the Earth with red and yellow areas indicating the interior areas and blue for the exterior. The model is painted with fluorescent paint and lit with very powerful Scandinavian blacklights using 45W HID sources, similar to the ones used in Mercedes Benz and BMW headlights.
The building's aluminum facade creates a perfect large-scale projection screen. When the museum opened, van der Heide used a Pani 2.5kW HMI projector to drape the facade with 60' (18m) images of animals. "This was my gift to the museum," he says.
ART DIRECTOR Wim Gertenaar
HEAD OF PRESENTATIONS Dirk Houtgraaf
TECHNICAL DIRECTOR Wim Tamboer
LIGHTING DESIGN Rogier van der Heide, principal designer, Hollands Licht, Amsterdam
DESIGNERS Juliette Nielsen, Maaike Duijzer, Martin Croes
PROJECT MANAGER Brenda Scheermeijer
ARCHITECT Fons Verheijen, Verheijen Verkooren De Haan, Leiden
GALLERY DESIGNERS Donald Janssen Ontwerpers, The Hague (Parade of Fossils, Theatre of Nature) THinc Design, New York (Dynamics of the Earth gallery) ZEE Ontwerpers, Rotterdam (Life gallery) Marcel Wouters, Eindhoven (Kids' activity center) ROO, Amsterdam (Visions of Nature gallery) MET Studio, London (Ecosystems gallery) Verheijen Verkooren De Haan (Treasure Room gallery)
EQUIPMENT Tracks and track lighting Erco Quinta with Philips CDM-T 35W lamps Erco Quinta with Philips SDW-T 50W lamps Erco Pollux with UV-coated Philips 20W tungsten-halogen capsule Erco Optec with Osram Sylvania 50W tungsten-halogen halospot with metal reflector Erco Eclipse with Philips 150W CDM-T lamp Erco Monopoll
Built-in lighting Agabekov B-Light with 5W xenon lamps General Electric Precise 35W MR-16 lamps Philips TMX HF tubular fluorescent with Philips T5 lamps
Fiber optics Philips Focus generator with Philips Focus 100 HID lamp Philips Octopus generator with Philips 150W CDM-T Philips Octopus generator with Philips Masterline 50W MR-16 PMMA plastic fibers Hollands Licht custom-designed fixture
Theatrical lighting Thomas PAR-64s with GE PAR-64 1,000W lamps Thomas PAR-56s with GE PAR-56 300W lamps Fly Trichroma, modified with Philips CDM-T 150W lamps Fly Trichroma with 1,000W tungsten-halogen lamps ETC Source Fours with 75W tungsten-halogen lamps ETC Source Fours modified with Philips 150W CDM-T lamps ETC Source Four with City Theatrical EFX Plus2 rotating effects projector and Philips 150W CDM-T lamps Microlights Microprofile with GE 75W MR-16 lamps TTL 6-channel dimmer packs Rosco Permacolor dichroic color filters Rosco Vivid FX fluorescent paints DHA gobos
Show control Avenger Systems Conductor system