“One of Britain’s best museums just got better” Mark Hudson. The Daily Telegraph.
Sutton Vane Associates was appointed by the V&A Museum to be the lighting designers for the huge range of new galleries Europe 1600-1815. The largest project in the V&A.
There are two main threads to the project. The first is the architecture and the spaces. The second is the story told by the amazing collection of rich treasures.
In 1899 Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone for Aston Webb's huge V&A building. Webb explained that the great benefit of his plan was that it enabled the visitors inside the building to orientate themselves. In the 1970s Webb’s galleries were enclosed in boxes which cut out all daylight and views and completely hid his architecture. The museum and Sutton Vane Associates wanted the visitor to be aware of the busy world outside: trees, London buses and the time of day, to restore Aston Webb’s connection and reveal his architecture.
The challenge was to allow views out and introduce daylight into galleries that hold priceless artefacts that can be damaged by light. A flexible system of shutters and blinds was developed. The galleries face South and West so great care was taken to control the daylight and the sunlight. Many computer studies were carried out and cardboard models of the galleries were tested in an artificial sky.
Working with the architects ZMMA, Sutton Vane Associates designed a series of circular pendants that have a number of features. With their glowing rings of light, they emphasise the rhythm of Aston Webb’s architecture, they provide a soft ambient light and carry spotlights to light important artefacts. Other accent lighting is provided by the smallest possible spots on tiny recessed tracks. These, like the pendants, follow the rhythm of the architecture.
Many details had to be carefully designed, in the Serilly Cabinet daylight appears to stream in through the windows to create the feeling of afternoon sunshine. Great care was taken when designing the back lighting of stained glass panels to reveal their beautiful colours.
Some treasures are brightly lit and others are allowed to gently glow in the background, each artefact is lit to reinforce its story and to preserve it for future generations. Half way along this series of seven galleries, in the corner gallery, more daylight is deliberately let in to give a change of feeling and a punctuation with the Los Carpinteros Globe, before turning the corner and entering the second half of this wonderful and important parade of galleries.
“I wanted to tell you I particularly enjoyed the captivating lighting on the portrait of Salome with the Head of St. John.” Email from a visitor to Sutton Vane Associates on the opening