The lighting designers at Sutton Vane Associates were given free rein to be as quirky as they pleased in the museum celebrating that most famous master of eccentric engineering William Heath Robinson, opening in October 2016.

Architects ZMMA designed the interior of the building, and particularly the roof, to reflect Heath Robinson ideals - it’s bizarre but it works.  Simplicity is definitely not the objective: instead the interior celebrates exuberant originality.

The first lighting to meet visitors as they walk through the entrance and shop is provided by two large pendants suspended ostentatiously from the ceiling.  Specially constructed to designs from Sutton Vane, working with the architect, the pendants have a forest of copper tubes arranged at irregular angles, finishing with equally irregular copper cones.  It’s random, anarchic and fun while also providing flexible lighting with superb colour rendering to highlight the merchandise.

Having set the scene, the lighting design in the next rooms does not disappoint.  In the Activity Learning Space white pendant spheres pack the ceiling with seemingly random placement.  Despite the apparent chaos, the combination works effectively to cast light up into the deliberately erratic ceiling and, with fully dimmable controls, sets the level of lighting as required for whatever activity is taking place.

When it comes to the permanent William Heath Robinson exhibition room, home of original artworks designed by Bright White, conservation is combined with illumination.  Light levels are restricted but nevertheless larger prints are picked out with precise rectangles of illumination making them glow as if they are emitting their own light.

A horizontal wave-like surface runs around the room telling a story and incorporating individual display cases.  All are lit individually and supplemented with small fittings on unusually long, slender rods positioned at varying angles hanging from the ceiling and lighting the exhibits in a seemingly random fashion.

The Temporary Exhibition Gallery required more flexible lighting to accommodate changing exhibitions.  In here the walls are lined with a general wash with spot lights positioned on the boards between the structural timber framing on the sloping ceiling. 

The overall lighting scheme achieves a clever combination – providing functional lighting to show off the marvellously creative and intricate designs on display while also celebrating the eccentricity of the building design.  It’s a positive tour de force of the quirky: a fitting home for the work of a truly free spirit.

Additional Information:

William Heath Robinson (1872-1944), acclaimed British illustrator, painter and cartoonist, lived in Pinner from 1908-18, ten of the most productive years of his life.

The West House and Heath Robinson Museum Trust is a registered charity which restored West House in Pinner Memorial Park for community use. The Trust is a partnership between local Pinner people and the William Heath Robinson Trust, custodians of the artist’s work.

Trustees are now completing a new Museum at West House to Heath Robinson, having received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund of £1.3m. 

A significant addition to the national arts, educational and cultural landscape, this project is delivering:

·         The first purpose-built museum in Greater London for over 40 years

·         A permanent home for the Heath Robinson collection of original artwork and other artefacts

·         The only museum dedicated to Heath Robinson, hosting the largest collection of his original works

·         In addition to the permanent exhibition, a rolling programme of special themed exhibitions, starting with Heath Robinson at War from October 2016 to January 2017

·         For schools, colleges and people of all ages, a comprehensive programme of formal and informal learning: thought-provoking and entertaining, reflecting the style of the man himself.