Launched in March 2023, Ad Gefrin provided a unique opportunity to illuminate a brand-new museum, visitor experience and whisky distillery, located at the centre of the local village community in Wooler, an area steeped in Anglo-Saxon history. Located just one hour from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the distillery borders Northumberland National Park, home to the darkest skies in the UK.

Michael Grubb Studio was directly appointed at the early stages of planning in 2019 by the local clients, Alan, Eileen and Chris Ferguson, to create the lighting design for this stunning project. The brief was for the lighting to showcase the Ad Gefrin brand and provide a visitor experience in multiple areas serving different functions, including a working whisky Distillery, Barrel Store, Bistro, Retail, Function Room, Museum and grand Atrium entrance.

The innovative design combined traditional techniques, sustainable practices, and modern efficiencies. Harnessing the large amount of natural light within the building played a vital role in supporting a more sustainable approach. While after dark, minimal lighting was used to create ambience, selecting a low level of brightness to respect the protected dark skies of the nearby Northumberland National Park.

Sophisticated lighting highlights the architectural design in the impressive, domed Atrium. The lighting design approach needed to suit the traditional construction techniques used to craft a beautiful, high-end finish. Lighting tests were also undertaken to demonstrate how a series of shorter lengths of LED luminaires could deliver a brighter, lit effect with a lower wattage output, along with the ability to individually remove, upgrade and easily maintain sections. This resulted in an approach that was more effective and sustainable than typical approaches to a curved surface.

The Bistro is flooded with natural light by day, creating a presence that also needed to be balanced by night. An immense, decorative light feature was created using 270 glass globes internally, illuminated by fibre optics suspended from the ceiling, inspired by Northumberland’s starscape.

The lighting needed to serve multiple functions, such as in the Distillery, a working environment also toured by visitors. Functional and decorative lighting were combined to create two lighting scenes for each requirement. Directional spotlights enhance the raw materials and textures, as well as highlighting interior architectural features.

The Function Room features a vaulted ceiling with three tiered, suspended, curved, copper-leafed pendants. From the exterior, these can be seen through the large windows complementing the copper pot stills in the adjacent, working distillery to create a landmark and focal point within the village of Wooler.

Meanwhile the illumination within the whisky tasting experience was kept minimal, using narrow beam, discretely mounted spotlights and LED light sheets to highlight the whisky displayed.

This project demonstrated a real investment in sustainability and the local community, using local companies to create jobs for local people, as well as a legacy for future generations to benefit from. Michael Grubb Studio played a vital part in creating a space which serves the local community while demonstrating the values of the Ad Gefrin brand.

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