Museum of Liverpool shines light on city’s life

Lighting designer Sutton Vane Associates recently put the finishing touches to the lighting at the £70 million pound Museum of Liverpool, ready for its 19 July 2011 opening. At 13,000 square metres, the attraction is the largest national museum built in the UK in a century and its design includes large column-free exhibition spaces and giant picture windows, making daylight both a major feature and a lighting challenge.

Designed by Denmark’s 3XN, with detail work subsequently carried out by Manchester-based AEW, the building on Liverpool’s Pier Head has 1,500 square metres of glazing including picture windows eight metres high by 28 metres wide at each end. It houses 6,000 exhibits from a railway carriage to a rocking horse. The permanent Peoples’ Republic exhibition created by Redman Design, for example, highlights daily life and includes a full-scale reproduction of a Victorian ‘court’ or tenement building in use through to the 1970s. Other exhibits include the bedspread used by John Lennon and Yoko Ono for their Montreal ‘bed-in for peace’ in 1969, The Beatles’ suits and the first Ford Anglia.

In the days before the museum opening, Sutton Vane Associates adjusted more than 1,000 lockable, track-mounted spotlights used throughout the museum to show individual artifacts in their best light.

Sutton Vane Associates principal Mark Sutton Vane, says, ‘we carried out extensive daylighting studies of the Museum of Liverpool, which enabled us to develop a lighting scheme that takes the architecture fully into account and is adaptable, efficient and more than able to cope with the demands of a museum of this scale. The team has put in a tremendous effort in the approach to the launch and the results are amazing.’

Lighting controls have been used widely, including for DMX-addressable LED spotlights and a modular LED system providing cool white ceiling lighting. LED floodlights are used for the multimedia, immersive production Kicking and Screaming, which describes the famous rivalry between Everton and Liverpool football clubs, and the show within the Beatles immersive. LED panels have also been used to create a glowing timeline exhibit.

Elsewhere, T5 fluorescents provide under-seat lighting and fibre optic light boxes are used in the museum’s City Soldiers Gallery. Specially made fittings include replicas of original railway station lighting, which cleverly conceals compact fluorescent GLS replacement lamps and luminaires used for room sets such as an old chip shop.

The view from the Museum of Liverpool’s large windows includes the Port of Liverpool Building, also lit by Sutton Vane Associates. The consultancy has a long association with Liverpool having developed a lighting strategy for the city ahead its designation as European Capital of Culture in 2008 and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was instrumental in Liverpool obtaining the funds for a major lighting programme credited with contributing to its regeneration. Phase One of the £1.2 million City of Light project saw the permanent lighting or re-lighting of 30 of Liverpool’s most important buildings including both cathedrals and the Town Hall.

Suppliers on the Museum of Liverpool project included Precision Lighting, Mike Stoane, Light Projects, Lucent Lighting, Festive Lights, ACDC Lighting Systems, Aldabra Lighting/Strategic Lighting, Designed Architectural Lighting, DMA Rosco, Great British Lighting and iGuzzini.


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