V&A Dundee, UK

Pic: Hufton + Crow

If you’re in any way affiliated with the design world then you’ll no doubt have already seen countless images of the new V&A museum in Dundee, Scotland over the past few months.

The museum, designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, opened in mid-September, and has been lighting up the design community with its unique, sloped façade, inspired by Scotland’s mountains.

As Scotland’s first design museum, V&A Dundee aims to tell a global story, investigating the international importance of design alongside presenting Scotland’s outstanding design achievements. At the heart of the museum, the Scottish Design Galleries feature 300 exhibits drawn from the V&A’s rich collection of Scottish design, as well as from museums and private collections across Scotland and the world.

The lighting brief for the museum was developed by Arup, in close collaboration with Kuma and the V&A, with Arup’s lighting team providing the design service for daylighting, architectural lighting to all front of house areas, gallery and exhibition lighting and the exterior façade lighting.

The distinctive architecture of the building presented clear objectives for lighting the spaces with an emphasis on daylight, architectural integration and sustainability. The lighting team brought with them experience gained from museums and art galleries across the world, including the V&A in London. Computational modelling allowed them to analyse the weather condition data and sun path across each day throughout the year in all areas of the building, allowing them to develop daylight strategies with the architect. It was particularly important that no direct sunlight entered the galleries, as exposure to UV lighting can be particularly damaging to some of the more sensitive exhibits.

This focus on daylighting played a key role in Arup’s designs, as a key aspect of the brief, alongside sustainability, was to reduce reliance on artificial lighting in the public spaces by providing daylight to spaces without introducing glare from direct sunlight.

Façade openings are formed to offer views out onto the water and across the city of Dundee, while providing good levels of daylight at the edges of the space. However, deeper into the space, daylight is provided by a series of large diameter sola-tubes that sit just above the perforated ceiling, delivering high levels of daylighting to the restaurant and main hall, giving the space a light and consistent appearance during the day.

For the temporary galleries, north-facing skylights integrated into the roof system bring in natural light where desired, while an adjustable blackout shading system integrated into the skylights allow the modulation of incoming daylight to meet different conservation requirements for different exhibitions.

Elsewhere, a series of small windows and one large window fitted with dual open weaved/black out blinds are strategically positioned in the Scottish Design Galleries to provide views out. An automated blind control system has also been installed here to ensure that the blackout blind is only deployed when the sun hits the picture window. This maximises the view outside, and the influx of daylighting, while protecting the sensitive exhibits inside. Above all, the careful use of daylight achieves an open and naturally lit environment without compromising sensitive exhibits.

Blending into this use of natural daylighting, artificial lighting has been sensitively integrated into the fabric of the building, providing comfortably lit spaces that enhance the architecture. For example, the main angled walls of the central foyer are softly lit from above, giving the space a warm and welcoming appearance.

Arup worked with exhibition designers ZMMA on the lighting for the Scottish Design Galleries, in consultation with the V&A. The artificial lighting for this space has been designed to accent and reveal the range of design objects, while light levels also vary, with the most sensitive exhibits being lit at levels just below 50lux. Track mounted projectors equipped with high colour rendering LEDs are carefully aimed and focussed to model and reveal the colours and textures of the objects on display.

Each of the galleries has its own lit character pertaining to the objects on display. This range of light qualities was achieved by using iGuzzini’s Palco track fittings, which provide a wide range of interchangeable optics and accessories to shape and direct light. These track fittings are installed on DALI tracks, and fitted with potentiometers to allow for local control. Within the display wall, Mike Stoane Lighting’s Surf is used to highlight the displays. These fittings are controlled via a local dimmer in each display, meaning that they can be set for the particular object on display.

A central feature in the Scottish Design Galleries is the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Oak Room (CRMOR) – an original Rennie Mackintosh oak tearoom reconstructed by Smith and Garratt. This has been designed as a truly immersive space, where the light quality of the original space has been reproduced using original glass fittings and concealed high quality LED light sources. Here, the original pendants and wall lights have been fitted with modern LED filament bulbs, retaining the desired feel of authenticity while ensuring that energy consumption is duly considered.

Concealed 3000k gobo projectors and cooler 6000k LED strips mounted behind glass provide a sense of depth and an abstracted quality of natural light to the space, while maintenance and emergency lights are cleverly concealed, so as not to disrupt the original ceilings.

The main hall meets a number of functions, and houses the ticket office/reception, a café and shop on the ground floor, and a restaurant at the first floor level. The unique angled walls of the space are softly lit from a high level, defining the edges of the space and providing a sense of warmth from the reflected light on the timber.

A simple concealed track system runs across the space at a dynamic angle, providing fixed general lighting and accent lighting to the café and retail spaces below. This also brings an element of flexibility for setting up the space for special events where additional lighting can be added to the tracks for this purpose.

The shop, designed by Lumsden Design, includes a feature display wall intended to represent the tidal flow of the Tay. The textural walls, and the merchandise, are lit from very narrow beam TTX2 track fittings from Mike Stoane Lighting, while the mobile retail units are lit from tracks above, and have integral linear strips under shelves to accent the smaller items on sale.

Adjacent to the main entrance and just into the main hall, visitors are welcomed with the café bar, smartly situated under the main stairs. The bar is illuminated mainly by the fittings integrated into the bar at various locations, providing a greater interest and distinctiveness in the otherwise dark under-the-stairs space, while a variety of LED strips from Deltalight are carefully hidden below the counter, under the shelves and into the food vitrines.

The first floor restaurant benefits from an abundance of natural light and an amazing view across the city. Wide beam projectors provide good general levels of daylight to balance the space, which are dimmed down at night automatically from the central control system, provided by Lutron. Between these, a series of accent projectors provide accent lighting to tables and the unique furniture details within the space. Accent lighting at the bar comes from shelves lit using Pixalux, and Rubn’s suspended Copolla amber glass pendants, that reflect the natural light beautifully during the day, and glow in the evening.

The restaurant features an open terrace for use day and night that is provided with battery-operated lanterns for the tables, while linear in-ground fittings uplight the façade, creating a backdrop for the space.

While the soft, warm interior illumination is evident during the day, it becomes a very inviting and key attraction at night, when you can see glimpses of the interior from outside, as the small windows built into the linear façade allow the interior lighting to glow out, giving the windows the appearance of small lanterns that reflect in the water around the building. Lights mounted in these reflecting pools surrounding the building uplight the exterior and reveal the complex forms and unique texture of the façade, designed to represent a Scottish rock face.

The central walkway under the building provides a dramatic space, where this uplighting of the detailed façade can be fully appreciated.

On completion, designers at Arup are pleased with the end result, and the way that the lighting, both natural and artificial, supports the architectural ideas for the building.

“The main double height foyer of the V&A is a great space to spend time in, and the longer you do, the more you become aware of the smaller details and geometries of the building,” said Laura Phillips, Associate Director of Lighting at Arup.

“The use of natural light in combination with artificial lighting to the angled walls is a key contributor to the success of this space and how it changes over the course of the day.”

Phillips also cited the collaborative nature of the process as another key factor in the project’s success, particularly in the gallery spaces. She continued: “Focusing the Galleries was a very collaborative process with the V&A team and ZMMA. The Scottish Design Galleries are quite unique in that they vary in colour and character depending on the exhibits on show. The lighting helps to bring out the inherent qualities of each exhibit, while providing a visually comfortable backdrop to the space.

“Creating the ambience in the CRMOR room through focusing and dimming of the custom decorative glass fittings was very rewarding, and is a very immersive space.”

Throughout the whole museum, Arup, alongside ZMMA, has created a remarkable, immersive visitor experience, that lives up to Kengo Kuma’s unique architectural design, and is certainly fitting for Scotland’s first design museum.