SHEDDING LIGHT ON FINE ART November 2015
Following a £15 million renovation project, the Whitworth gallery, part of The University of Manchester, employs a state-of-the-art solar shading solution, coupled with an intelligent lighting control system, provided by Levolux, the UK’s leading solar shading and screening specialist.
As part of an award-winning development, designed by London based architecture studio MUMA, the Whitworth has been extended with two new wings formed from brick and glass. The BREEAM ‘excellent’ rated, two-storey extension doubles the public space of the gallery and adds an additional learning centre and collection zone, while being sympathetic to the design of the original building.
The new areas benefit from large expanses of glazing to maximise natural daylight and allow good outward visibility across Whitworth Park to the south. To prevent excessive glare and unwanted solar heat gain, Levolux was invited to develop a combined Solar Shading and Lighting Control solution.
The Solar Shading solution comprises 48 Roller Blinds and 30 Skyvane systems, all motorised and linked to an intelligent control system. Unguided, guided and zipped roller blinds were combined with non-retractable blinds, in the form of Levolux’s Skyvane system, to satisfy challenging performance requirements.
Roller blinds are fitted with a range of fabrics that were chosen for their particular light transmission or light exclusion properties. Levolux also fitted double roller blinds and upward pulling roller blinds to deliver uncompromised results.
The Skyvane system, which is a form of non-retractable Venetian blind, has been applied internally against inclined glazed openings in three vaulted ceilings. 85mm wide extruded aluminium slats have been used, with a pitch of 75mm. The slats, which have an attractive, natural anodised finish, can be rotated through approximately 100 degrees, from a fully open to a fully closed position. When closed, the slats are designed to interlock for maximum light exclusion.
All blinds are linked to a Levolux lighting control system, which monitors multiple internal and external light sensors and presence detectors. These can be individually configured to set the level of lighting required given a range of criteria.
The fully programmable control system automatically adjusts the lighting and blinds, taking into account the position of the sun, the changing seasons and the museum’s opening and closing time. This maximises daylight levels and ensures specific light levels are achieved in each area, at any given time and on any given day. By limiting and optimising the use of lighting, the system can generate significant reductions in energy consumption.
The fully integrated lighting control and solar shading solution not only creates a comfortable environment for staff and visitors, but also ensures optimum conditions for exhibiting and preserving delicate pieces of art.
The renovated Whitworth has impressed critics and following its completion in 2015, it has collected many prestigious awards including the Art Fund ‘Museum of the Year’ award, in addition to RIBA National and Regional Awards. It was also shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling prize.