Room 29, National Gallery,
London, UK

A sensitive, responsive, and flexible lighting design for this high-profile historic space enhances the experience of the architecture and delivers an appropriate setting for the enjoyment of the artwork.
National Gallery
2021 - 2023
Avanti Architects
Electrical Engineer
Project Manager/Cost Consultants
Main Contractor
Display Lighting
Studio ZNA
Jack Hobhouse
Project Team
Mark Major, Philip Rose, Wimonwan Wichaikhamjorn

In 2021 we were invited to create a lighting strategy for the main galleries, vestibules, and public circulation spaces of the National Gallery, as part of a full review led by Feilden + Mawson Architects. At the same time, we were also appointed to work with Avanti Architects on the refurbishment of Room 29. Our brief included the design of the architectural lighting for the space and improving the flexible lighting infrastructure for the display of the collection.

The recent renovation rejuvenates and celebrates the architectural composition, with the aim of providing an uplifting setting for the paintings. 

Built as part of a new extension in the 1920s, Room 29 was badly damaged during the Second World War and subsequently remodelled in the 1970s, when its architectural features were hidden away according to the prevailing theories about the best way to display art at the time. ”

The major feature of the room is its central panelled barrel-vault, flanked by large glazed lay lights to either side. We added soft uplighting from a concealed cross-lighting detail to highlight its detail and volume while also softening contrast with the bright planes of the lay lights. Utilising fully dimmable, tuneable white LED sources, the intensity and ambience of the ceiling can be adjusted according to the curators' requirements for exhibitions and events.

Our design also reduced the number of central downlights and found new, more discreet locations for the luminaires that reveal the interpretative text on the end, helping to simplify the space.

While natural light makes an important contribution to the character of the space, it is also subject to wide temporal and seasonal variations. To help preserve ideal lighting conditions in the room regardless of external conditions, we recommended new tuneable-white backlighting be added behind the glass lay lights. This allows for adjustment in both colour temperature and intensity of the light, facilitating the best experience of the architecture and the art, regardless of the time of day, time of year, or the weather.

For the illumination of the display, we recommended the existing channel-based track and spot arrangements be replaced and relocated. A new unobtrusive recessed track system, installed at the same height as the lay lights, frees the spotlights to have the full range of motion of tilt and swivel, allowing the paintings to be illuminated in their entirety at the optimum angle - from the vertical plane to the eye height of the viewer.

Our work on Room 29 involved full lighting design up to Stage 4 (Tender Documents) with a Concept Guardian Role in place for the project's duration. The display lighting was commissioned and focussed by Studio ZNA.