Lighting Design

Case Studies

The Silverstone Experience

We were the exhibition lighting designers for the new £20M museum at Silverstone racetrack.

The Silverstone Experience 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 1954 track which is suspended from the ceiling, a recreated pub from the 1950s and spectacular lighting of some of the most legendary cars in racing history.

Image Max Fordham LLP Info
Lighting the plinths under the race cars, in addition to from the rig and the feature lights above, creates a more interesting and exciting scheme.
Image Max Fordham LLP Info
The linear pendants simulate a tunnel into the pits and add a sense of speed to the reflections.
Image Max Fordham LLP Info
High-tech lighting in the tech zone

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
Respectful of 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.
Image Hufton+Crow Info
The roof of the newly refurbished Hayward Gallery allows daylight in for the first time in 50 years.

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.

Image Hufton+Crow Info
Lighting is all bespoke, low-energy LED integrated into the architecture.
Image Hufton+Crow Info
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.

Image Cecile Clos Info
Dramatic lighting uses backlighting with focused lights on the features and statues of the facade.
Image Hufton + Crow Info
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.
Image Hufton + Crow Info
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.
Image Hufton + Crow Info
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.

Theatre Royal Glasgow

The Theatre Royal Glasgow project included the redesign and refurbishment of the historic Category A theatre, and construction of a new foyer.

The lighting design provides an interesting, inviting and intimate set of landscapes within the new foyer space, where the colours and finishes relate to the historic fabric of the listed auditorium. Dramatic daylighting throughout the foyer reduces the need for artificial lighting.

Our work involved testing reflectivity and finishes with computer analysis, and 1:1 scale mock-ups to understand how the lighting would perform under a range of conditions and at different times of day and night.

The high level lantern and perimeter glazing provide dramatic daylighting throughout the foyer, while reducing the energy required for artificial lighting.

The lighting and new energy-efficient systems provide healthy, comfortable and vibrant environments for audiences and performers alike.

Image Andrew Lee Info
Dramatic daylighting throughout the foyer reduces the need for artificial lighting.
Image Andrew Lee Info
The high-level lantern and glazing lends a natural, bright, calm quality and reduces the energy required for artificial lighting.
Image Andrew Lee Info

Wellcome Collection

In response to its increasing popularity, we worked on a significant project of opening up and re-modelling of the Wellcome Collection building.

The existing entrance-space has been expanded to make the full extent of the collection more apparent, adding new gallery spaces, youth events space, a kitchen and restaurant. The existing library was reorganised and re-opened.

The project was undertaken in various, unconnected parts of the building with work being phased to maximise the area of the building which could remain open. Working in and around the existing building with minimal disruption to the archival material and conservation spaces was a particular challenge.

Image Ben Gilbert/Wellcome Images Info
The lighting scheme within the new restaurant area of the Wellcome Collection
Image Ben Gilbert/Wellcome Images Info
The lighting illuminates the staircase of the Wellcome Trust.
Image Ben Gilbert/Wellcome Images Info
The library lighting at the Wellcome Trust.

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.

Image Hufton + Crow Info
Flexible controls allow for a variety of auditorium configurations.
Image Hufton + Crow Info
The Skylight is boosted by subtle uplighting.

Olympic Water-Polo Venue 2012

Our approach for external lighting was to avoid bright and polluting lighting installations commonly associated with large events. Instead we created a scheme based on colour and movement, gaining the same focus and attention but with much less energy use.

The roof and sides of the Venue with a grid of 120 RGB light fittings which produce animations inspired by what is happening in the Park and inside the Venue. For example, a race in the adjacent Aquatics Venue creating a wave which runs up the Water Polo roof.

The scheme required detailed modelling and full scale mock ups to deal with the tricky reflective material and tight angles, ensuring that it worked perfectly on completing. Internal lighting in the venue was driven by the need of competitions and HDTV. Careful analysis was needed to make sure lighting worked from all angles and that no distracting glare was created when the water was disturbed during play. 

Image Max Fordham Info
Extensive computational analysis and physical modelling was undertaken to ensure that the rigorous Olympic standards were met
Image David Morley Architects Info
Precise light levels were needed for the Olympic competition and broadcast

Lighting Design