Gainsborough’s House has reopened after a three-year renovation partially funded by the National Lottery. The museum, in the Grade I listed townhouse, where Thomas Gainsborough was born, was renovated and the lighting redesigned. Also, a new building was constructed to create the largest gallery in Suffolk. Displayed In this new building are world-famous Gainsborough paintings and other works.

Sutton Vane Associates was appointed by Gainsborough’s House to create a range of different lighting schemes. The original house has many domestic historic rooms. In some of these rooms the lighting has to emphasise a historic homely feel. In other rooms the art is to be the star of the show and so has to be made to stand out. Some rooms have deliberately modern spot lights to state that they are a modern intervention for modern purposes. To show the art well and to not have too much of a contrast with the daylight, a colour temperature of 3,000 K was used throughout the building. Each room has its own types of fittings to suit the architecture, they all have very high CRI figures. All the modern lighting equipment was installed using reversible methods so there is no damage to the historic fabric.

The entrance to the complex is through the new building. This is clad with local flint and bricks which are picked out by a rhythm of downlights that lead visitors to the entrance. In most of the new building the lighting creates a light and airy atmosphere. Sutton Vane Associates designed the daylighting. Upstairs in the Landscape Studio there are panoramic views over the Suffolk landscape that Gainsborough loved. This room is used for events, lectures and school art activities. Here spotlights can add drama to a small stage area.

The Gainsborough Gallery has the world-famous collection of original Gainsborough paintings. It has a different atmosphere from the rest of the new building. The valuable paintings must not be damaged by light, so it was decided to have no daylight in this gallery. This allows correct lux-hours dosages to be maintained. The design makes a feeling of handsome drama for the paintings on the green silk damask walls. The eye is managed by using the right lux levels before entering and on leaving this gallery.

The client needs to be able to change the lighting easily in all the galleries in the new building. So, most of the lighting is by dimmable 3,000K spots with adjustable beam angles on tracks.

For the opening exhibition in one gallery, the artworks were very light sensitive and needed to be presented in a jewel-like way. Using the spots, the visitors’ eyes were managed and make the lighting appear brighter, while ensuring the artwork was protected with low lux levels.

A range of different lighting atmospheres were created in the different spaces to protect the art and inspire the visitors.

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