Lighting Design

Case Studies

Museum of the Home

Having successfully worked with the Museum of the Home, previously The Geffrye Museum, for over 25 years, we recently worked alongside Wright & Wright Architects on the upgrade and extension of the museum’s Grade I listed spaces.

We provided a range of lighting services - both architectural and exhibition lighting design, setting up and building physics & modelling.

We were closely involved both in developing the Museum’s existing historic buildings and in creating new public and support spaces.

Opening the lower ground and first floors of the main almshouse building has enabled visitors to explore previously unseen parts of the museum. New gallery and library spaces allow for more treasures from the collections to be seen and enjoyed, and an additional entrance, opposite Hoxton station, has been created.

A new Learning Pavilion and Studio Pavilion revitalises the existing learning activities and programmes for people of all ages.

In addition to designing the core services and infrastructure for lighting, we worked closely with ZMMA on the exhibition lighting design of the new Home Galleries.

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Magdalene College, New Library, Cambridge

The new three-storey building for Magdalene College in Cambridge was crowned RIBA Stirling Prize winner 2022, praised by the judges for its exceptional engagement with environmental design principles, overarching commitment to build something that will stand the test of time, and for the well-designed environments that hugely improve student success and wellbeing.

We designed the lighting to minimise energy use and provide emphasis and focus on the bookshelves and working plane. Due to the sensitivities of the site in the historic Fellows’ Garden, reducing light spill and obtrusive light was also key.

Pendants were chosen to provide a decorative feature that catches the sunlight as well as offering a source of directed light. We worked with the lighting manufacturer to get exactly the right optics and light sources to create a uniform level of lighting from a minimum number of pendants and downlights. Bookshelf-mounted lighting was used to illuminate the bookshelves around the perimeter of the spaces, helping define the space and making it easy to navigate around. Task lights with simple switch controls allowed us to provide higher light levels on the desks when needed, and to avoid wasting energy on unnecessary lighting. A small palate of carefully chosen fittings was used throughout the building to facilitate installation and maintenance.

We chose to wash the pitched ceiling with lights mounted on top of the beams in order to create a backdrop for long views through the glazing and a sense of height inside the spaces. This system was put on a timed control to be switched off after curfew to minimise light spill.

External lighting was kept to a functional minimum; lighting just the path, entrance and the facade along the terrace to light faces, and aid orientation and navigation whilst allowing the new building interior to remain the centre of attention. As with the internal ceiling uplight, the facade uplighting is to be switched off after curfew to minimise light pollution.

Image (c) Jack Hobhouse Info
To support the architect's vision, we worked with Stoane Lighting to achieve the right optic and get a uniform light from a minimum number of pendants and downlights. Discreet shelf-mounted fittings were used to light the books. Task lights provide higher light levels where needed on the desks.
Image (c) Jack Hobhouse Info
The pitched ceiling is washed with light mounted on top of the beams; this is on a timed control to be switched off after curfew to minimise light spill.
Image (c) Jack Hobhouse Info
The external lighting was kept to a minimum, focusing on the path, entrance and the facade along the terrace.
Image (c) Jack Hobhouse Info
As with the internal ceiling uplight, the facade uplighting is to be switched off after curfew to minimise light pollution.

Bloomsbury Theatre

The Bloomsbury Theatre, part of the UCL Campus, reopened in autumn 2018 following a major renovation. The project is an existing building of significant complexity in respect to the types of spaces, distribution of services and access arrangements.

Built in 1968 in the brutalist style by James Cubitt & Partners, the theatre’s 550-seat auditorium has been entirely and sensitively refurbished as part of the project.

New building services have been designed to provide comfortable environments for building users while being energy efficient, simple to operate and maintain, robust and affordable.

Working closely with UCL Culture and Estates, the lighting systems have been designed to meet current building standards and follow UCL guidelines. UCL appointed Max Fordham to design the new lighting installations working alongside theatre consultants and acoustics teams and integrate these services to ensure a more inclusive and far reaching environment was achieved. The theatre was reinstated on a like-for-like basis with enhancements to improve access, life safety and reduce the energy consumption.

This project has presented some unique challenges, which include the proximity to numerous other buildings with ‘live’ on-going construction projects, and complex stakeholder arrangement with ongoing occupation and operation of spaces around the project.

The project has been delivered to BIM level 2 and achieved a Gold rating under SKA Higher Education.

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Lambeth Palace Library and Archive

The new library and archive at Lambeth Palace houses one of the world’s most important religious literature collections.

The library and archive is the first new building on the site for almost two hundred years, and was welcomed by The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings as a ‘high-quality new design’ in the historic context. The Palace’s collection of books and manuscripts is second only to the Vatican’s in Europe, with some records stretching back to the ninth century.

The lighting design blended carefully controlled daylight with a low energy artificial lighting scheme which was designed to create healthy, flexible spaces for visitors and staff as well as conservation led lighting for the collection.

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Devonshire Park

The transformation of Devonshire Park included the refurbishment of the Grade II* listed Congress Theatre and the Winter Garden, as well as the construction of a new conference centre.

Max Fordham were appointed to provide internal and exterior lighting design, satisfying the objectives to transform one of the UK’s most distinctive cultural places. New, fully dimmable house lighting systems were installed, along with a more cohesive and characterful front of house lighting scheme. Reducing energy costs was paramount and the latest technologies employed.

The surrounding public realm has been renewed with new amenity and architectural lighting, maximising the usability and historically significant fabric of the site.

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External lighting is hidden in the growing landscape to keep it discreet and allow clear views of the buildings
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The auditorium lighting scheme uses the latest dimmable LED technology to update the original design intent
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Backlighting the recesses celebrates the architecture and ensures that audiences aren't distracted with glare from lighting
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Different techniques in lighting the areas of concourse and foyer help navigate around the site
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Lighting is coordinated with the exposed ceilings and acoustic panels

St Mary Magdalene Church, Paddington

We worked with Dow Jones Architects on the renovation of the Grade I-listed Victorian church.

Our lighting design included the relighting and redecoration of the interior, including nave roof, chancel vault, stained glass, walls, joinery and the organ case; restoration and re-use of the undercroft as an accessible public space (220m2) with flexible lighting; refurbishment of the vestries and other spaces for office and ancillary use; and installation of exterior lighting.

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St John's College Oxford, Library & Study Centre

The new Library and Study Centre at St John’s College, Oxford, is focused on promoting energy efficiency in the most elegant manner. The new building which adjoins the existing 16th century library, located within the Grade I listed Quadrangle, provides three levels of library and study space, a 50-person seminar room, a secure, climate-controlled archive for the college’s Special Collections, a new reception area and an exhibition space.

A pool stretching along the west façade reflects light up onto the carvings across the irregular grid of the stone wall that forms the west side of the Study Centre and was created by artist Susanna Heron. 

The overarching challenge in lighting the project's centerpiece was to create beautiful and characterful lighting of the sculptural relief both in the day and at night.

In order to maximise the extent of these solar reflections, called caustics, which cast patterns capturing the movement of the water and only appear under certain conditions, we developed a pioneering 3D modelling technique in-house. This allowed us to accurately predict the caustic reflection and refraction patterns of both sunlight hitting the surface of the pool and the submerged artificial lighting we were designing. Physical testing in our office and at Susanna Heron's studio followed, validating the initial results. The pool materiality, geometry and artificial lighting were subsequently optimised to enhance the illumination effects.

The artwork in the multi-functional foyer space is day-lit with rooflights and glazed end-walls, with the rooflights providing the perfect raking light from the sun and sky. Caustic effects can even be seen at times, when sunlight is reflected from the pool and through the glass.

The artificial lighting causes a perfect balance between raking and fill light, highlighting the varying depth of the stone carving by providing shadow whilst allowing occupants to experience every detail and subtle colour variation in the material itself.

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Lighting from under the pool water reflects ever changing patterns upwards onto the stone carvings.
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Glancing sunlight grazes the artwork, bringing out its depth and relief.
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Lighting is kept at low level to avoid distraction.
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Vertical fins, solar control glass and carefully sized rooflights ensure the library can have plenty of healthy and attractive daylight whilst still protecting the books and avoiding visual discomfort.
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A blend of daylight and high efficiency artificial lighting keeps energy costs low.

Fairfield Halls

The Fairfield Halls is a renowned 1960’s concert venue in the heart of the London Borough of Croydon.

The Redevelopment Project was a major refurbishment to modernise the complete building including its historic Concert Hall, Ashcroft Theatre, foyer and front and back of house areas. The project also included the addition of new multi-function and gallery spaces, a community café and an improved public external realm.

Our overarching ambition in re-lighting Fairfield Halls was to restore the original character of the venue, whilst using the latest technologies to minimise energy costs and bring a higher level of flexibility and control. This meant that we needed to create bespoke lighting fixtures, sometimes by refurbishing and adapting what was already on site, but also by designing new lights based on old photographs and archive evidence. Fortunately a long term partner in lighting was based locally, and we were able to turn to them to develop the design and manufacture of the fittings. Max Fordham and Dernier & Hamlyn had worked together for over 20 years before teaming up for the restoration of Fairfield Halls. D&H's experience and extensive knowledge about the heritage of lighting helped ensure the new scheme met all our aspirations. Our clients at Fairfield Halls were also delighted to be able to work with a local company who has a long-standing commitment to training young crafts-people.

We used ETC Arcsystem lamps and fittings controlled by their proprietary wireless DMX system in the Concert Hall and Theatre, with tone adjusting dimming for a warm ambience.

In the front of house generally we have Ex-or DALI controls. Low energy decorative fittings by Lucifero and Lightnet were chosen to add interest to the circulation spaces.

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Fairfield Halls today: The Concert Hall shines in its original splendour thanks to the combination of authentic, bespoke lighting fixtures and the latest technologies.
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The bespoke main foyer lighting reflects the building's original ceiling design and creates a clean and inviting arrival space.
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Natural daylight creates a light and airy feel to the front of house spaces. Integrated blinds offer solar glare control while maintaining connectivity to the outside.
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Original 1960's heritage chandeliers were refurbished with high efficiency LED light sources and dimming control.

The Silverstone Experience

Max Fordham were the exhibition and feature lighting designers for the new Silverstone Experience, a thrilling journey through the past, present and future of British motor sport, home to the British Racing Drivers Club archive and a museum that has been created to inspire the next generation of engineers and racers.

The £20M museum educates visitors with captivating stories behind the famous track, using interactive displays and cutting-edge technology.

The lighting installation includes an animated version of the original 1948 track which is suspended from the ceiling, a recreated pub from the 1950s and spectacular lighting of the most legendary cars in racing history. While ensuring the exhibition lighting was well balanced, and that long views across the halls were created, we also wanted to let reflections from the animated central feature add interest to the exhibits and give an overall sensation of speed, so the lighting of artefacts and decals incorporating text had to be very focused and directed. The complex and reflective multiple layers in the car paint and finish can make lluminating vehicles in a dark museum atmosphere very challenging, so we specified and set up each fitting individually - perfectly highlighting the range of beautiful and historic racing vehicles on display.

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A combination of techniques, including lighting the plinths under the race-cars as well as using a high level rig and feature lighting at ceiling level, creates a more interesting and exciting scheme
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The many beautiful vehicles at the Silverstone experience are all lit in a unique way.
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Much of the interest and character is created through the deliberate use of reflections.
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Dimmable and low energy fittings are used throughout.
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An ambitious and layered scheme in the Technology Zone helps add to the message of cutting-edge design.
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Linear pendants create a virtual tunnel over the race cars and evoke a sense of speed in the reflections spreading across the body-work.

Nevill Holt Opera

The Nevill Holt Opera is in the courtyard of the 17th century stable at the Grade I listed Nevill Estate. The theatre was designed to host the estate’s Summer Opera Programme and is on a confined site, which meant our design and strategy had to suit the seasonality of the theatre and the limited space.

The lighting meets the Architect’s vision for the building as a ‘raw’ space, in keeping with the original agricultural use of the building.

As a lighting project, Nevill Holt was unusual. There is no fly tower and, housing just 400 seats, it is small for an opera house. A large rooflight above the stalls allows plenty of daylight into the theatre and was suitable for the summer-only use. It also helps add drama to a performance through the gradual lowering of daylight levels. Max Fordham precisely designed and analysed its geometry so the beams of light fit the space exactly.

Working within a limited budget, we were nonetheless able to design elegant, timeless, and highly functional lighting pieces. The same system can work for opera performances, as well as orchestra recitals, daytime workshops and lectures.

Special fittings were created and meticulously tested at every stage of the design development and manufacture. Much of it was bespoke – including bespoke output, modelling files, shades, mounting methods, drivers and dimming method (GDS). The deceptively simple end product belied the effort that went into creating this.

The placement of the lighting was also very important. These elements significantly elevated the space from its humble surroundings to something more glamorous and befitting of a venue hosting a grand opera. We made many models, both digital and physical, and set up on-site tests to holistically understand the lit effect on the materials at hand.

The final results provide a warm and inviting auditorium where the history of the building is proudly showcased.

Image Hélène Binet Info
Fittings were selected to meet the architect's vision of a 'raw' aesthetic, in keeping with the original agricultural use of the building. Decorative, warm exposed LED lamps alongside a bespoke central pendant - incorporating twenty eight porcelain shades - give subtle variations in light, enhancing the character of the space
Image Hélène Binet Info
All lighting is LED, with a bespoke central auditorium pendant and theatre-style fittings above the stage for work and house lighting, as required
Image Hélène Binet Info
A large rooflight above the stalls allows plenty of daylight into the theatre, an unusual approach that allows occupants to view the former stable yard as originally intended.

Southbank Centre

The Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and the Hayward Gallery form the Festival Wing of the Southbank Centre. They were built in the 1960s and have had very little refurbishment over the past fifty years.

The buildings had become increasingly difficult to operate and costly to maintain. We needed to give the buildings new leases of life as well as reduce maintenance and energy bills for the next 30 years. One of the principal motivations for the project was the need for refurbishment of the lighting systems.

Queen Elizabeth Halls and Purcell rooms
We designed elegant and efficient LED lighting systems that retained the character of the space and utilised new technology that allowed flexible use, lower energy costs and fewer heat gains, as well as an integrated control system.

Main Foyer
We installed DMX-controlled front-of-house lighting schemes for the multi-function foyer with the latest technology, providing flexibility for both social and performance use. Respectful of the original aesthetic intent, we reinstated the distinctive geometric ceiling but integrated LED colour change controllable lighting that provide a dynamic background for events.

Hayward Gallery
Prior to the refurbishment works, many of the iconic pyramid rooflights had been painted to attenuate light, the blinds no longer worked, and a suspended ceiling had been installed so that daylight in the galleries was virtually non existent. Our response to the brief to reintroduce daylight included redesigning the pyramids to let in diffused light, adding a system of computer-controlled blinds and introducing dimmable lighting.

Further innovation was provided in the design of the artificial lighting. We worked with the manufacturer to develop, prototype, test and deploy a track mounted light fitting that was both locally and remotely dimmable.

New artists’ entrance, bar and dressing rooms, with both daylight and bespoke artificial lighting were introduced to create a better sense of identify and connection to the outside.

Image Morley Von Sternberg Info
Elegant and efficient LED lighting systems are respectful of the history of these unique spaces.
Image Morley Von Sternberg Info
Inspired by the original aesthetic intent, we reinstated the distinctive geometric ceiling but integrated LED colour change controllable lighting that provides the background for live music shows, club nights and relaxed days sipping drinks.
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The roof of the newly refurbished Hayward Gallery allows daylight in for the first time in 50 years.
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The foyer's many areas and elements are provided with balanced lighting through a controllable DMX system.

Alexandra Palace

Max Fordham worked on the significant refurbishment and repair of this Grade II listed public building. The refurbishment created a more successful, diverse and truly-accessible place, opening up many parts of the building not previously accessible to the public.

We designed new flexible lighting installations to the East Court and Theatre at Alexandra Palace. The historic 1875 theatre was lit so as to retain its character as a ‘found space’. The new foyer and bar areas feature contemporary lighting installations, and RGBW lighting systems to the East Court allow for a variety of events to take place.

Image  Richard Battye © Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios Info
The historic 1875 theatre was lit so as to retain its character as a ‘found space’

Generali Tower, CityLife, Milan

CityLife is one of the largest new civic spaces in Europe, built on the site of the old Fiera Milano. At the centre of this urban park is a business district consisting of three towers, characterised by flowing and twisting forms. We provided the lighting design, energy and environment strategies on the Zaha Hadid 43-storey Generali Tower.

The tower includes office space, conference areas and catering facilities and connects below to the rail station. The building uses a sophisticated double façade with sun-deflecting louvres to minimise solar gain whilst allowing great views of the city and excellent daylight to the office floors.

Low-energy active chilled beams have been configured within the ceiling design to form ribbons around the office floors accentuated by integrated LED lighting strips. The foyers and ancillary spaces feature concealed lighting forms which emphasise the architecture whilst still meeting strict standards for energy use. The design has achieved a LEED Platinum rating.

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Lighting is all bespoke, low-energy LED integrated into the architecture.
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The double-height foyer features slot lights integrated into the curving and sloping ceilings.

Musée d'Art de Nantes

Nantes, the sixth largest city in France, is home to the Musée d’Art recently refurbished and extended by Stanton Williams Architects. Max Fordham designed both exhibition and architectural lighting.

The different lit character of the spaces helps define the journey through the museum. Spaces displaying older parts of the collection, for example oil paintings, are treated with warm light focused onto the canvases to help lift the colours, whereas contemporary works are positioned in bright ambient spaces which have a more subtle style of emphasis.

The old lighting used in the Palais galleries has been replaced with complex layers of superimposed glass, stretched fabric and controllable blinds, resulting in a ‘passing cloud’ effect. The quantity of natural light is controlled but with a soft touch: on especially bright days, blinds start to close to preserve the artworks, but levels are usually allowed to vary in order to embrace the changeability of sun and skylight both in tone and intensity. Glass of varying transmission is used above the galleries and for different orientations, to make the light more consistent and avoid overheating. Between galleries and external glazing, perforate blinds and diffusing membranes help manage brightness and even-out the light.

The new extension is glazed with translucent, laminated marble that draws natural light into the building, helping to achieve an enjoyable internal environment for visitors and art conservation, with minimal energy use.

Most of the main lighting pieces were bespoke designed for Nantes. These included light boxes in contemporary galleries and a more subtle profile cut through the ceilings of the palais ground floor spaces. In public areas like the restaurant, library and book store we hung light structures that discreetly emphasise the features of the existing Palais as well as adding a new layer of character.

Musée d’Art de Nantes won the Daylight Project of the Year at the 2018 Lighting Design Awards.

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Dramatic lighting uses backlighting with focused lights on the features and statues of the facade.
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Controlled natural lighting to the existing galleries is provided through rooflights, reducing electric lighting energy consumption. On especially bright days, blinds close to preserve the artworks, but levels are allowed to vary in order to embrace the changeability of sun and skylight both in tone and intensity.
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Daylight is filtered down into the gallery spaces and subtly links with the supporting electric lights. This innovative approach reduces electrical energy demand and helps make the the building feel connected to the outside.
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The character of the spaces helps define the journey through the museum. The basement spaces under the Palais are warm, bright and well conditioned, making use of the old stone retaining walls for thermal mass and lighting.

Tate Britain

This major project has improved gallery conditions and the visitor experience at the Grade II* listed Tate Britain in Millbank, London. 

The galleries have been designed to maximise controlled daylight and reduce energy demand. An innovative shading system developed by us ensures artworks are lit to relevant conservation standards, avoiding direct sunlight and reducing the need for artificial lighting.

The new and refurbished spaces all have bespoke glass light fittings designed especially for the project.

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Our award winning innovative shading system ensures artworks are lit to relevant conservation standards, avoiding direct sunlight and reducing the demand for artificial lighting.
Image Hélène Binet Info
Bespoke light fittings for the extension were designed for Tate Britain.

Friends House

We were part of the design team with John McAslan + Partners, on the transformation of the Large Meeting House at Friends House, the home of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain.

The room features a rooflight inspired by the artist James Turrell. Seating over 1,000 people, it is a versatile, accessible and sustainable space which responds to the growing needs of the outreach and social programmes at Friends House.

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Flexible controls allow for a variety of auditorium configurations.
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The Skylight is boosted by subtle uplighting.

Harrogate Royal Hall

Harrogate Royal Hall, the Grade ll-listed Kursaal by the Victorian architect Frank Matcham, was completely refurbished in 2008.

The strategy at Harrogate Royal Hall was to use the lighting to maximum decorative effect, creating a series of jewels in the historic interior. Fittings were specially made to suit the installation and a lot of care was taken to make sure the character of the lighting was right for the building and its users.

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Decorative fittings were carefully restored to bring the auditorium back to life
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High efficiency sources were designed to work with daylight
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Lost fittings were re-created from old newspaper photographs to restore the heritage of the historic theatre

Lighting Design