In May 2021 the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Raphael Court – home to the Raphael Cartoons – reopened following a nine-month refurbishment to mark the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death. The refreshed gallery and its new interpretive approach transformed the way museum visitors experience the Cartoons, which are lent to the V&A from the Royal Collection by Her Majesty The Queen.

Studio ZNA worked with architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and the V&A team to renovate one of the most well known galleries in the UK. A new decorative scheme and infrastructure was introduced in the Raphael Court to reveal the Cartoons’ extraordinary details and vibrant palette. Acoustic panelling was added to create a calmer environment, and bespoke furniture to sit and enjoy the works at leisure. State-of-the-art LED lighting was designed to reduce reflections on the glass and produce a marked increase in visibility of the works.

As well as one of the best-known gallery spaces in the UK Raphael Court is also a key event space for the V&A yet, the lighting system did not, until now, supported special events.

Studio ZNA devised a flexible lighting solution, which now illuminates the cartoons uniformly whilst taking careful consideration of all conservation requirements. The lighting scheme brings these wonderful artworks to the fore within the space, immediately bringing the visitors’ eye directly to them. The glory of the space itself is also celebrated by rendering certain elements of the architecture with light like the existing arches in the space that now glow quietly; the light having given them a new life. The lighting scheme provides a separate system for Events with remotely controlled light fittings and colour changing luminaires so the system can be adapted to any event layout with decorative elements. Both Exhibition and Event lighting systems can be controlled with wireless controllers, providing flexibility and fast adjustment times while minimising the required infrastructure.

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