Aberdeen Art Gallery has recently reopened after a four-year refurbishment lead by Hoskins Architects. Lighting design studio Speirs + Major were invited to redesign the lighting throughout, in a scope that included existing and new galleries, event spaces and cafes, the Remembrance Hall, and the external night-time image, as well as a refurbishment of the Cowdray Hall. The design delivers the perception of positive naturally lit spaces consistently throughout the year, a high priority for the gallery given the restricted number of daylight hours during winter months.

In the historic Remembrance Hall, a new custom pendant has been suspended beneath the skylight. A simple circular design with glowing sides, it spans an impressive 5.5 metres in diameter, casting light up into the dome, down to the gallery floor and sideways to fill the space with light. It also incorporates audio-visual projectors for gallery and event use. The pendant raises and lowers on a hidden winch system to allow for various uses of the Hall and to provide the flexibility to create different lit atmospheres. At the perimeter, the detail of the stepped columns is highlighted, emphasising the unique geometry of this space.
The new design by Hoskins moved the existing staircases out of the entrance hall to improve visitor access and flow. Centralising vertical circulation within the atrium known as the “Sculpture Court” also allowed for higher levels of natural light from the renovated skylight above. Looking up, the beams that cross the void have been lit on one side, highlighting them as an architectural feature, while also providing enough reflected light for circulation.

The Remembrance Hall pendant may be raised and lowered to create different atmospheres for different uses of the space. © Gillian Hayes.

A historic sculptural frieze wraps around beneath the original ceiling, its detail and texture enhanced by soft uplighting, while a bronze linear detail to either side of the new staircase creates a strong visual marker that guides the visitor journey. Uplighting to the vaulted arches completes the visual composition of the atrium, contributing a solid edge to the historic space. Throughout all the galleries and event spaces, Speirs + Major have carefully integrated the artificial lighting to enhance the architecture, while also prioritising visitor enjoyment of the art.

New structural beams that are visible from the ground floor Sculpture Court are highlighted as a feature.
© Gillian Hayes

A new second floor and roof extension provides temporary exhibition space as well as education and community event facilities and a café. The inclusion of this floor blocked natural light from existing roof lights in the first-floor galleries. To preserve the character of these spaces, custom colour temperature adjustable lay lights behind the glazed panels help to recreate the feeling of natural light. The curvature of the ceiling is revealed by a slender detail, concealed on top of the historic coving. A minimalist light track runs around the edge of the roof light, providing the flexibility to add and move spotlighting as the curation of the gallery dictates. The new second-floor galleries echo the Sculpture Court skylights.
A minimal track detail provides flexible lighting to enhance visitor enjoyment of the artwork. © Gillian Hayes
As a prominent Grade I listed building, a sensitive approach to the external lighting was required. Simple and refined, light emphasises the historical details on the façade and marks the original gallery entrance portico. Pin light details pick up on the rhythm of the cladding on the new roof extension, while warm custom-designed pendants for the new café are visible through the windows. Constructed in copper-coated aluminium and expanded metal, these pendants recall the design language of the new rooftop extension, helping to tie the composition together as a whole. The adjacent much-loved War Memorial and entrance to Cowdray Hall was also part of the lighting scheme, with highlights to the colonnade, stone plaques and sculptural lion reinforcing the presence of the Memorial by night.

Luminaire Manufacturers:
Custom Café Lantern : Stoane Lighting
Custom Hall Pendant : Spectral Lighting
Other luminaires : Orluna, LED Technologies, ACDC Lighting, KKDC,
Willy Meyer + Sohn, WE-EF Lighting, iGuzzini Illuminazione, Zumtobel, Lumenpulse, Aktiva, Erco, Lucifer, Santa & Cole.


The exterior lighting is a refined approach that reveals historic details and makes use of the view through the windows. © Gillian Hayes

Project Credits
Client : Aberdeen City Council
Completion : October 2019
Area : 6000sqm
Architect : Hoskins Architects
Lighting Designer : Speirs + Major
Engineer : Buro Happold
Main Contractor : McLaughlin & Harvey Ltd
Electrical Contractor : Dowds Group

 At the perimeter of the Sculpture Court, concealed uplighting reveals the form of the vaulted arches. © Gillian Hayes

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