The British Museum

High CRI  |  Miniature luminaires  |  No colour shift  |  Daylight control  |  Bespoke luminaire integration  |  Single source LED chips  |  DMX control


The British Museum


London, United Kingdom


Ecosense, AppleLec, Talbot Designs, Architectural FX, ADO Lights


Light Union, Architainment


Stanton Williams

Balance, quality and discretion, blended with theatrical flair.

Stanton Williams contacted LAPD at the end of the summer, 2014, to discuss an opportunity at the British Museum.  The project was the Waddesdon Bequest.  It featured a range of artefacts from the private collection of Baron Ferdinand Rothschild.

The gallery space provided a number of significant challenges that required consideration throughout the design process.  Above all, daylight was the biggest challenge.  We needed to be able to control the amount of daylight coming through the large gallery windows.  At certain times of the year, direct sunlight would penetrate through the windows and on to the exhibits.

LAPD developed a concept to mimic the public footfall through the gallery space.  In addition, adaptability was key, with different exhibits introduced periodically.

The gallery was, essentially, divided into two volumes, one on top of the other.  The upper volume, the mezzanine, allowed the lighting to reflect the architecture of the space while below the mezzanine the exhibition cases dominate the volume.

We subtly illuminated the coffers and false columns that ran down both sides of the space.  Consequently, the architecture of the gallery was beautifully highlighted, creating a backdrop for the stunning collection.

This lighting created a balanced approach to the upper floor. However, the three main windows enhanced the experience as the view of the colonnades to the main entrance by creating an asymmetric daylit feel to the space.




  • museum lighting design: displays
museum lighting design: displays

To ensure the optimum integration of LEDs within the large parallelogram cases, as well as the wall cases, a visit to the showcase manufacturer was critical.  We worked to ensure consistent colour appearance while eliminating colour shift.  Because we used luminaires from different manufacturers, we developed bespoke specifications.  The fittings consequently used the same LED chips, from the same binning, creating pristine consistency across the gallery.

The specification of the internal showcase lighting was the most critical part of this design.  CRI in excess of 90 would achieve the best lit effect.  This was just the start of the specification of the high quality LEDs and control.

To enhance the experience of the exhibition, a media wall displayed images and video of Waddesdon Manor and its exceptional interiors.

LAPD specified a control system which balances the intensity of the projectors with the amount of daylight coming into the space.  This control also had a link to the architectural lighting on the mezzanine above, further enhancing the gallery experience.

The overall balance of light within the gallery was an essential part of the design.  To achieve perfect balance, almost every lit surface featured dimmable control.

Stanton Williams and LAPD commissioned each luminaire head.  Some of these required collimated lenses and honeycomb louvers to achieve the best lit effect on each artefact.  We spent many hours trialling lighting effects in the showcases to ensure the best possible aesthetic. The right combination between the perfect illumination of the artefacts and the resulting shadowing was a natural challenge.

Each of the showcases became a small theatre.  Treated individually because of the eclectic nature of the collection, the lit effect for each subject is bespoke.

We thoroughly tested the lighting of the crystals with the curator.  The team felt that the most suitable colour temperature was 3000K.  We used the same process and a 2700K colour temperature for the wooden and gold subjects.

LAPD lit the dichroic Lycurgus Cup with a DMX controlled dimming system.  This enhanced all the different colours in the dichroic glass.  We programmed the lights to fade in and out, from front to back and left to right.  Clever setup of the control allowed some overlap, therefore ensuring there was a very smooth increase in light and change of direction, even at very low dimming levels.

The bespoke lighting entices the public into the space and ensures that this gallery visit is truly one of the best experiences within the British Museum.