Rijksmuseum ‘making of’ Amsterdam

Beersnielsen was involved in the Rijksmuseum project and was assigned with the task of designing the final exhibition lighting layout plan and the custom lighting solutions for the exhibitions. As executive lighting designers, we also were responsible for aiming and tuning the light on site.

Final exhibition lighting layout plan

We first got engaged in the project in March 2012, after the Rijksmuseum had chosen for Philips as a partner in lighting. At that moment Philips was developing a LED fixture especially for the lighting of the exhibitions and the studio was asked to make the final lighting plans. With these plans the total number of spots, their positions and the lenses were determined. One of the set goals for the total lighting design of the Rijksmuseum was to achieve consistency in the quality of the light through out the whole museum and improve the simplicity in execution and maintenance by using only one type of spot fixture.

With only 2 engineering samples at our disposal there was little opportunity for mock ups. The biggest challenge was that only one type of fixture had to be used at different heights ranging from 3 to almost 10 meters. To learn about the characteristics of the fixture, the samples were tested on site measuring the output when used at different distances and with different lenses. Based on the outcome of these tests main lighting principles were set up for each collection. This combined with the impressive package of drawings made by Wilmotte and Cruz y Ortiz with detailed information of the 8.000 artworks for each of the 80 exhibition spaces, resulted in the final lighting layout plan that was realized in only two months. The drawings showed the positions of the fixtures and what they where aimed at, the type of fixture (with mono point fixing or with rail adapter) and the needed lenses to make different beam angles. With this information Philips could proceed to produce the final amount of 3640 fixtures and 2500 lenses. In November 2012 the first batch of spots were delivered. The spots first had to be addressed for the Dali system and put into place according to the drawings. This was done by Philips partner Toverli. After installation we aimed the fixtures, added lenses and repositioned the fixtures when art was relocated. As a Dali system was used for dimming, the relocation, adding of extra fixtures and removing spots needed some extra effort.

The tuning of the light consisted of aiming the fixtures and shaping the light by adding the lenses per artwork and choosing the right positions avoiding unwanted shadows, glare and reflections. Finally the light levels were tuned to not exceed the maximum amount of lux levels tolerated and balanced with the light levels of the surrounding objects and the spatial lighting created with the uplights and lay lights.

In the process of tuning the light the input of the curators was crucial. On forehand the curators were asked what the desired atmosphere of the collection should be, which objects needed to be highlighted, which objects were sensitive to light and other preferred preconditions. As a final step, the ‘fine-tuning’ was done together with the curators. Following these steps each collection got its own specificatmosphere whilst balance was created throughout the whole museum.

Special thanks to Charl Smit, Vera Wegener, Daphne van der Knijff and the guys from Toverli who helped us get the light right on spot!

Photography – Beersnielsen, Charl Smit, Brad Koerner

Link Rijksmuseum