Thursday 29 Mar 2012


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Lighting designer, curator and architect shedS new light on Celtic art and Irish heritage

Early and sustained collaboration by a team including the architect, a lighting consultant, and the curator has helped create lighting for the National Museum of Ireland's refurbished Treasury Gallery that enhances its displays of priceless Celtic Christian artefacts and the building itself.

The scheme by Sutton Vane Associates reflected a strict hierarchy focusing both illumination and attention on the objects, floors, cases and ceilings, in that order.

LED spotlights with adjustable beam angles have replaced an ugly, energy-hungry grid of MR16 downlights and wall-mounted spots. These put a soft glow on the floor that visually lifts the gallery's carefully restored mosaic floor.

Dimmable compact fluorescent uplights and slim light panels in the wall recesses comprising LEDs and prismatic panels also give a gentle wash of light. The team worked with fabricators in Germany to design display cases especially for individual artefacts making them easier to view and to locate them in sympathy with architectural features such as the mosaic, Majolica fireplaces and carved wooden doors.

The use of fibre-optic lighting had the following benefits:

- The fibre optics are positioned precisely to minimise damage to the mosaic floor.

- The projectors are in a basement, which eradicates heat and noise problems and improves conservation since lamps can be changed without opening the cases.

- The size and position of the conduits means that the installation is reversible, so the building's heritage is protected.

The scheme manages the transition from one gallery, housing mainly metal artefacts and lit at 200 lux, to a second it at only 50 lux to help preserve the 1,200-year-old Faddan More Psalter. Elsewhere, custom-built, 4m-tall showcases show the details of the undersides of exhibits using mirrors and carefully placed downlighting. Track and LED spot fittings in a third space allow flexible lighting of temporary exhibits.

Sutton Vane Associates