The Museum of the Order of St John in London reopened in November following a £3.7 million refurbishment, with lighting design by Sutton Vane Associates that skilfully balances the use of daylight and conservation needs.

Located in the Tudor St John’s Gate building in Clerkenwell, the museum’s collections cover religious, military and medical history, documenting both the Order of St John and the ambulance service it created. Its existing layout dated to the 1970s and needed upgrading. The galleries were redesigned by Metaphor – which specialises in design and content development for museums, exhibitions and heritage projects – as lead consultant, collaborating with conservation architects DIA.

Natural light creates conservation challenge
One of the major architectural interventions is a glass roof that allows an uninterrupted view of the medieval walls inside this listed building. The use of natural light has been both a major feature of the lighting design and one of its greatest challenges, with some vulnerable artefacts dating back nearly 1,000 years. Paper and textile artefacts are among the most vulnerable, with oil paintings at slightly less risk from full spectrum light. Some artefacts at the museum can only take up to 50 lux.

Sutton Vane Associates senior designer Toria Martin says: “There’s no doubt that day lighting contributes to the experience of the visitor as part of a carefully designed scheme. In the context of a museum it poses particular challenges but despite that, designers and curators increasingly value its use and it is a very important tool for sustainable lighting.’’

Photo credit: Hufton and Crow / Metaphor.