Feature, Retail

Immersive and imaginative lighting at National Museum

National Museum has been illuminated by the work of Sutton Vane Associates

The lighting in the National Museum of the Sultanate of Oman has been carried out by Sutton Vane Associates. This system is immersive and gradually leads the guest through the building and allows them to adjust.

A major project of great National importance and pride. Sutton Vane Associates carried out the lighting design of all interior spaces and surrounding gardens. ‘[The] wait is finally over as the National Museum of the Sultanate of Oman will be open to the public from July 30’, celebrated  the Times of Oman. Wikipedia was also impressed with ‘the Sultanate’s flagship cultural institution’.

Sutton Vane Associates carried out studies to assess how much of the bright Omani sunlight could be allowed into the galleries and all the other spaces, without causing it to become too bright. Most visitors arrive at the main car park, and, from there, a route into the museum was designed which gently lowers the light levels for the visitors. First, they walk under palm trees then along an arcade which is only open on one side, then into a lobby with light-reducing glass, then through two spaces that are completely artificially lit at gently decreasing levels, before arriving into the first gallery. The light levels in the interior spaces vary with the time of day, they are brighter in the day than in the evening. All this allows the visitors eyes to get gradually and gently dark-adapted from around 100,000 lux down to 50 lux.

The lighting throughout the building gradually decreases to gently adjust the guests’ eyes to the relatively dim artificial light.

The design of the museum mixes traditional Arabic decorative themes with a modern architectural design. In the circulation spaces, there are specially designed decorative lanterns which create functional lighting as well. Some are huge: up to three metres high. The external lanterns have decorative grilles to create themed shadows on the ground. The tallest showcases in the world are installed in the first gallery. Designing lighting for them was real challenge. Aiming the lighting once the artefacts were in the cases needed a tall ladder to get to top.

Throughout the project daylight is used both as a functional light source and to connect the visitors to the outside. In one gallery there is a shielded sky light and the panels of decorative grilles (mashrabiya) around this space are back lit with colour changeable fluorescent lighting, they echo the colours of the daylight and turn a magical deep blue in the evening. The huge panel of onyx behind the ceremonial carved door is back lit by daylight, and at night by artificial light. Different spaces are lit in different ways to keep increase the variety of the appearance of the spaces and to help emphasise the differences between spaces.