Lighting design for exhibition spaces in museums can be quite challenging because light must simultaneously enhance the space, preserve the integrity of the artworks and highlight them in a way that ensures the best conditions for the visitor's enjoyment.
In addition to having the highest CRI (Color Rendering Index), daylight contributes to a feeling of comfort and well-being in the built environment. In exhibition spaces, natural lighting is important to accurately reveal the colors of the objects on display, which is very significant for works of art and provides more visual comfort for visitors to clearly perceive the exhibits.
However, most museums cannot rely on daylight as the only source of light. Exhibition spaces usually require artificial lighting design with appropriate lighting solutions to provide spotlights and diffuse lighting where and when it's needed. LED lamps are a great alternative because they can emulate natural daylight since they have similar properties, such as CRI and color temperature.
So, combining artificial and controlled natural lighting solutions for museums proves to be a successful approach to improve the quality of the spaces not only for the objects on display but also for the visitors, as seen in many projects around the world.
Located in Mexico City, the Jumex Museum by David Chipperfield Architects exhibits part of one of the largest private collections of contemporary art in Latin America. A distinctive saw-tooth roof with west-facing skylights and a horizontal diffuser layer distributes light evenly to illuminate the artworks and create an ambient light for the upper gallery. The light can be moderated to meet specific curatorial requirements.
In the Kult Museum, by Pool Leber Architekten and Bleckmann Krys Architekten, in Vreden, Germany, central openings in the atrium and the courtyard provide a well-balanced natural illumination besides identifying the different museum areas and facilitating the orientation within the center. On the first floor, which houses the secular part of the exhibition, corner windows open up to the view of the medieval port. On the second floor, the clerical part of the museum, two windows on the north side display the town’s two churches.
Similarly to the previous project, Francisco Mangado's design for the new main building of the Fine Arts Museum of Asturias in Oviedo, Spain, focuses on a central covered courtyard which acts as a great skylight articulating and structuring access points and circulation elements, becoming a reference space for the entire complex. The skylights on the roof are set back from the line of the facade, minimizing visual impact on the exterior but giving great quality to the interior.
Sunlight also plays an important role in the Yingliang Stone Natural History Museum by Atelier Alter Architects. Locating the museum at the headquarters of the Chinese mining company in Xiamen would imply a decrease in natural daylight for the offices, so lighting was a key issue from the very beginning of the project's development. The architectural concept introduced vertical and horizontal crystalloids that intersect within the atrium, concentrating and reflecting sunlight from pre-existing skylights into the exhibition spaces.
Meanwhile, the project for the Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts in Lausanne, Switzerland, by BAROZZZI VEIGA explores a rhythm of alternate openings to the exterior. The building has a closed, introverted façade on the south to protect the collections of the museum and avoid the trains’ nuisances, and a more open, permeable façade on the north providing natural sunlight and creating a dialogue with the new plaza. Deep vertical fins in between the pierced tall and large windows were designed to prevent direct sunlight from ever entering the light-sensitive zones of the building. The upper floor is also naturally lit from north-oriented modular sheds with an internal system of blinds that allow meticulous control of the amount of light entering the rooms.
The Kunsthaus Zürich Museum Extension project by David Chipperfield Architects, also located in Switzerland, but in the city of Zurich, combines tradition and innovation. The building form takes inspiration from the old cantonal school and features slender vertical fins crafted from local limestone placed at regular intervals along the facade. The exhibition spaces are characterized by an abundance of daylight – sidelight on the first floor and skylight openings on the second floor – placing the immediate experience of art at the center of the visitor experience.
This article is part of the ArchDaily Topic: Interior Wellbeing. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and projects. Learn more about our monthly topics. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.
The project descriptions are based on the texts provided by the authors.