Hoare Lea Lighting’s scheme for the Randolph Sculpture Gallery at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford has helped restore the architect’s original intention by creating a more viable exhibition space, and created a venue for a variety of events including wedding receptions and dinners. Having originally missed out on the 2009 redevelopment scheme of the museum, the space has now been brought in-line with the newer galleries on the museum’s ground level.
The six meter-high gallery is a centerpiece of the museum’s Grade I listed building completed by Charles Robert Cockerell in 1845 and houses the 17th century Arundel Collection of classic Greek and Roman statuary, the oldest of its type. It has Parthenon friezes at clerestory level and display niches along its walls but despite the gallery’s architecture, proportions and exhibits, it had become an undervalued space.
A 2012 conservation plan described it at the time as having become “an ambulatory to the exhibitions proper in the new extension to the north and the Egyptian Gallery to the south and west.” High-level windows on the south side of the gallery provide natural light, but the 2012 plan also noted, “The lighting in the gallery is poor, though it originally had additional illumination through windows in the northern clerestory wall. This further damages its role as a major exhibition space”.
To rectify this, Rick Mather Architects was brought in to complete the refurbishment. To help return the gallery to its former glory, a number of steps were taken which included redecorating and relighting the space. Working closely with the architects, the challenge for the project lighting designers was to light the space sympathetically while also illuminating displays and creating flexibility.
Hoare Lea’s scheme – which was shortlisted for a Lighting Design award in 2014 – replaced fluorescent downlighting with a combination of static and remote-controlled track lighting that coordinates with decorative ceiling cornice straps. The track has specially-designed brackets to minimize impact on the structure.
The scheme includes a number of DR2 LED spotlights “to provide additional light for functions without the need for scaffolding,” says lighting designer Ben Acton. The layered lighting plus the quick set-up, accuracy and safety advantages of remote controlled luminaires ensure that the space now functions both as a gallery and as an elegant venue for seminars, meetings and wedding receptions. Staff can adjust the DR2s with a simple handheld laser control, for example to spotlight dining tables. The gallery now presents a striking backdrop to dinners, receptions and presentations.