Jean Nouvel’s controversial design for the Musée du Quai Branly – the French national museum of ethnology – brings together 3,500 exquisite objects from around the world in a stunning building on the banks of the river Seine close to the Eiffel Tower.
It is controversial because, in the lively debate over how these treasures should be displayed, Nouvel came down firmly on the side of drama rather than the more scholarly approach favored by many members of the academic establishment. The interior of the museum is reminiscent of a long winding cave with objects displayed against a dark and mysterious backdrop. This sinuous theme is continued in the structure of the ceiling which is constructed from steel mesh and undulates as it runs along the length of the building.
The design presented an interesting challenge for the lighting designer, Georges Berne. Projectors installed on the concrete slab four meters above the mesh would spill onto it and compromise the design, so they had to be suspended from long metal poles which would position the lamps just above the mesh. It was going to be necessary to aim projectors very accurately, but they would be inaccessible from above and below. There was also a requirement that each light should be individually dimmable to allow for the different reflectance characteristics of the exhibits and their sensitivity to light.
The solution was to install 1,300 black remote controlled DR2 spotlights on bespoke pole mountings above the mesh ceiling. RCL’s “Select & Direct” technology was perfectly suited to the task, enabling the spotlights to be focused remotely from floor level. In addition to a bespoke mounting, the fixtures were modified by the addition of blue LEDs to make the sensor easier to see in the dark. Soft start was incorporated to improve lamp life and honeycomb louvers were added to achieve optimum glare control.