Most people think of London as one of the most civilized cities in the world, but it was once an outpost of the Roman Empire, with all the violence and grandeur that implies.
The Corporation of London has recently opened the site of a Roman amphitheatre. Archeologists discovered the site, located in Guildhall Yard, in 1988. Extensive renovation work followed. The arena was built in 70AD and was the site of battles between gladiators and wild animals. Indeed, animal bones, including those of a bear, have been found during the excavation — as well as wooden drains that once carried water and blood.
The exhibition design for the space was created by architects Branson Coates, who brought in David Atkinson Lighting Design to come up with a dramatic yet controlled environment which recalls London's violent past as a Roman colony.
As visitors enter the space, they are guided through a dark corridor illuminated only by small ceiling-mounted lightboxes fitted with dark blue filters. The lighting adds to the sense of anticipation while allowing visitors' eyes to become accustomed to the darker lighting conditions.
The amphitheatre is set within a black box design and is tightly lit by HID 150W CDM-T custom-designed sources that are fitted with barndoors and pebble convex lenses. In addition, a digital reconstruction (above) is set into an 80' (24m) lightbox wall which helps give a sense of the scale of the original amphitheatre. To help add movement to the space, dappled light is projected onto the textured floor through HID projectors fitted with animation disks to give the sense of light moving through clouds.
The overall effect is simple yet dramatic, a convincing evocation of life nearly 2,000 years ago. Installation of the lighting was done by Lauren Lloyd Electrical, with equipment supplied by AC Lighting.