Restored works by Renaissance master Raphael have recently benefited from a renovation and relighting project at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The London-based architecture firm Michael Hopkins and Partners collaborated with a lighting design team from Washington, DC-based George Sexton Associates, to improve environmental and display conditions within a gallery housing seven of the artist's cartoons (large-scale preliminary studies for frescoes). "The goals in relighting the gallery were to provide a sound and secure environment, ensure continued preservation of the cartoons, and provide a setting which enhances the viewing experience," says principal LD George Sexton.
A central concern of the lighting design was to control light levels and restrict UV radiation near the cartoons. "The exclusion of daylight from the gallery was required because of the difficulty and expense of controlling natural light at low levels," Sexton says. "Since the cartoons are glazed, the elimination of reflections on the surfaces of the artworks was also important. The lighting scheme provides optimal viewing of the cartoons from the middle of the gallery, where one can read the whole of each cartoon image, but allows for closer inspection with minimal visual interference from the lighting."
The lighting team worked with the architect to design a trough and molding mounted around the skylight opening which was closed in the renovation. Two ceiling levels are lit by PAR-56 wide flood uplights recessed into the moldings, creating ambient illumination, while PAR-56 wallwashers provide general lighting for the gallery walls. Light levels on walls are kept low to provide a contrast with the cartoons, but are high enough to create a luminous backdrop. Medium flood PAR-56s are focused on the cartoons to bring light levels up to 7fc (70 lux), meeting conservation requirements. Additional PAR-36 pinspots light other objects such as busts throughout the room. In the apse end of the space, wall-mounted PAR-56s illuminate a gilded altar to a subtle glow. Fixtures were fabricated by Concord and fitted with GE lamps.
Because of the height of the gallery, the roof redesign provided for access doors through which lighting designers could focus and technicians could relamp fixtures. For long-term maintenance, each fitting adjustment has been locked to eliminate the need for refocusing after each relamping. The mechanical/electrical engineering firm for the project was London-based Yates Associates.