Two by David Atkinson


The Surrey, England-based firm of David Atkinson Lighting Design Ltd.(DALD) recently completed two unusual and very different projects.

London Docklands Museum

The first task was an inspirational lighting scheme for the Museum in Docklands, which opened its doors to the public on May 24th, with the Queen officially opening it in June.

The Museum explores the story of London's river, port, and people, from the Roman settlement of the port through to the recent regeneration of London's former Docklands--a 2,000-year storyline. The Museum is located over five floors of a splendid late Georgian warehouse on West India Quay--literally in the shadow of the Canary Wharf district--and offers 12 major galleries and children's gallery. The galleries show how the region has been at the heart of centuries of social and economic change and pay homage to the people who helped to build and shape it.

The exhibition design team of Haley Sharpe bought DALD in at the very early stages of conceptual design, as lighting would play an extremely important part of the exhibition. The design approach unites traditional museum displays with multi media technologies, animates a rich and all encompassing storyline in ways that are both engaging and inter-active. Artifacts, engravings, paintings, testimonies and photographs all required lighting to conform to conservation audit as well continuing to strike impact. Atkinson wanted to create a strong contrast between the various galleries, which he achieved through varying hues of color and intensity.

Certain galleries were completely themed by Eastwood & Cook, of which one is Sailor Town, in which visitors immerse themselves entirely within a theatrical recreation of riverside streets and alleyways typical of those behind the early Victorian Wapping waterfront. Set in the early evening, the approach to the lighting design utilized small hidden point sources throwing light from one direction so as to avoid multiple shadowing. Various effects were used, from water ripples to flickering lanterns.

There are more than 1,400 fixtures used in the museum from a broad source of supplies which in part includes Delta Light, Encapsulite, Targetti, ETC, Selecon and Iguzzini. The commissioning of the project took almost three months to focus by a committed team of Stewart Parker and Howard Luscombe. Custom fixtures were developed for the project by AC Lighting and Commercial Lighting Systems.

St. Michael’s Cave, Gibraltar

St Michael’s Cave is situated at 300m above sea level in the Rock of Gibraltar and has interested visitors to the area since Roman times. The cave was often reputed to be bottomless or part of a link to Africa 15 miles away, and it has been the subject of many myths and stories through the centuries. With nearly a million visitors a year, it has been one of the most popular visitor attractions in Gibraltar since World War II. Nearly 40 years ago one of the first projects that the newly founded Electrosonic completed was a son et lumière show for the cave. Over the years the system was upgraded piecemeal, but in 2002 the government of Gibraltar decided on a complete refurbishment of the lighting and sound systems.

The government put out a broad invitation to tender, seeking ideas for refurbishment of the lighting and sound systems with a short daytime show for visitors walking through the caves and an evening show for special occasions and visits. Electrosonic put together a team of specialists as the Tourist Board of Gibraltar, the organization that manages the caves and the project, wanted a single supplier and a turnkey solution. DALD was brought in by Electrosonic as consultants to the project.

The initial brief was for the lighting to enhance the beauty of the space by subtle yet dramatic lighting. In addition to the general lighting, a son et lumiere would take place in a naturally formed auditorium on pre determined evenings.

In addition to the aesthetic considerations, all fixtures and fittings had to endure dampness, humidity and salt corrosion.

On entering the cave, visitors are taken through a tunnel, which is lit by a series of recessed, buried LED uplights. The effect of the buried lighting creates bold shadows adding to the sense of drama and anticipation.

Once inside the cave the splendor of the space is accentuated through the use of 35W CDM-T based fittings with spreader lenses and low-voltage dichroic units. The majority of the fixtures are positioned at low levels, hidden behind rocks and buried. The color temperature of the lamps varies between cool and warm to add a sense of depth to the various cave chambers.

The caves have over 200 concrete steps, which originally posed quite a hazard to the public. With health and safety in mind each step was fitted with an aluminium-edging nose containing LEDs, which have proved to be extremely useful to all members of the public.

The key to the general lighting of the caves was not through flooding the space with light but through careful control of the lighting, and was achieved through lighting intensity, color temperature, beam distribution, and position.

The son et lumiere, which lasts for twelve minutes in the main auditorium, is presented with all the general lighting off. The lighting plays a key role in helping tell a story of myth and legend. Equipment consists of intelligent lighting: Martin Mac 250 and 500 units (positioned within climate controlled Tempest Lighting “Tornado” domes). Also, dramatic hues of color are produced by Martin MAC 200 and 600 wash lights. The generic lighting consists of Par 16, Par 64, AR111 and halogen floods fitted with toughened glass filters. Special effects are provided by six high-powered fans, Cirro Lite haze machines, and Diverstronics strobes. Programming of the show was by Stewart Parker on a Wholehog II console from Flying Pig Systems, replayed through an Artistic License "No Worries" unit.