Commissioned by Historic Royal Palaces, Hoare Lea Lighting has designed the lighting for the CuCommissioned by Historic Royal Palaces, Hoare Lea Lighting has designed mberland Art Gallery at Hampton Court Palace. The new space for artworks from the Royal Collection allows visitors to view artwork in a gallery setting, which reflects the palace’s history as a destination for the work of renowned artists, such as Holbein, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Bassano and Gainsborough. This meant displaying artworks in new and interesting ways and lighting them creatively.
The gallery occupies a newly restored suite of rooms designed by architect William Kent in the 1730s. The Cumberland Suite is at the heart of Hampton Court, where Tudor meets Baroque. Five of the ten rooms that make up the apartment, together with lobbies and corridors, now form the Cumberland Art Gallery.
The brief given to architects Purcell and Hoare Lea Lighting was to return the Cumberland Suite to Kent’s original scheme, representing the rooms in their historical context. Understanding the architectural heritage of the space, while creating a contemporary lighting solution using modern technology, was crucial to the project’s success. The project required close collaboration with the Historic Royal Palaces and design teams. Simon Dove, Associate, Hoare Lea Lighting explained: “Working within a listed building such as Hampton Court, inevitably presented unique challenges, mock-ups were used to explore the implications of introducing new bespoke light fittings and communicate design ideas.” Hoare Lea Lighting’s CGI product, the LightSIM, was used to create a virtual reproduction of the space; this proved highly effective when discussing the proposed scheme with stakeholders.
While remaining faithful to the original architecture and finishes, the intent was for the environment to have the feel of a gallery and the lighting immediately announces that this is a different type of space. Picture rails from Raylight supply power to LED spotlights, which highlight the paintings, while avoiding fixings to the panelling. Although Tungsten has often been used in gallery settings, LEDs have now developed to a point where the quality of white light produced together with other benefits, such as energy efficiency, small size, high-colour rendering of 95+, warm colour temperature, ease of dimming and the lack of ultraviolet light created, made LED an ideal choice for this environment.
The look of each fitting was carefully considered to ensure the scheme complemented the space during the day and enhanced it at night. These fittings, developed in favour of the traditional linear picture lights usually specified in heritage buildings, give a contemporary elegance to the rooms. To incorporate flexibility, achieve the precise lux levels on the art required, and create the desired visual impression, individual dimming control of every fitting was important. Dove explained: “It was a key requirement to dim each luminaire from within the space, rather than from a remote location or via a complex lighting control system. We wanted to ensure that when a new hang is set-up, the Palace could do this without having to ask the lighting control supplier to attend site.”
This is demonstrated by the ceiling rosettes used to light a number of rooms. The disc-shaped rosette is suspended from the ceiling above the chandelier. Miniature spotlights mounted on the disc accent the artwork. Each spotlight is fully dimmable, mechanically adjustable and can be moved within the disc and angled to light, for example a painting or an architectural feature within the room. Fittings are linked to a Lutron architectural lighting control system; this uses simple scenes, and allows switching for security and cleaning purposes.
To the left of the lobby is the Wolsey Closet. A surviving Tudor room, this wood panelled closet features an ornate gold ceiling and a sequence of vivid painted panels. Adjustable uplights by TM Lighting installed in the window sill light the ceiling, while a custom antique brass finish fascia ensures the fittings blend seamlessly with the architecture.
Floor-standing LED uplights, also by TM Lighting, infill the gold ceiling and light the paintings that line the room at high-level, creating a diffuse light. The LED modules are installed above head-height, to avoid direct glare. Housing Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait in a Flat Cap, the Presence Chamber features a beautiful William Kent ceiling. The visitor’s eye is drawn to the white plaster ceiling and its details, which are picked out by LED spotlights discreetly integrated into seating in the centre of the room. Background lighting is provided by decorative wall sconces, supplied by Historic Royal Palaces. A number of lamps were tested before an LED candle lamp by Heritage Lighting was selected. As Dove explained: “These look good, dim beautifully to a very low level and were available in a warm colour temperature.”
Due to the historic nature of the space, particularly the Kent ceiling, finding locations for luminaires to light the artwork was difficult. The solution was to mount the spotlights to the rear of the picture frames, a technique often used in these environments. The Bed Chamber features portraits by Holbein of Sir Henry Guildford and Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, which are displayed in a glass case. The portraits are lit by LEDs located at the top and bottom of the case.
Within a number of the rooms, the stone windows have been lit with LED uplights discreetly located on the window sills. Although providing a subtle wash these add tremendously to the lit scene, preventing the windows becoming black holes at night. On display within the Duke’s large light closet are twelve Grand Canal views of Venice by Canaletto. Miniature spotlights mounted on the ceiling rosette above the chandelier highlight the paintings and provide general illumination.
Commenting on the project’s success, Mark Hammond, Partner of Purcell and head of the practice’s cultural sector work said: “We always enjoy working with the creative and conservation teams at Historic Royal Palaces. The carefully conserved rooms have been brought as closely as possible back to their Georgian appearance, while new technology has been sensitively incorporated to provide a rich experience for the Palace’s many visitors. The new lighting was designed to provide beautiful illumination of the paintings using the latest LED technology, but minimising the impact on the sensitive building fabric. The result greatly enhances the artwork and the room’s architectural features.”