Illuminating the Louvre

posted on Wednesday, 7th December 2011 by Steve May

Design  Lighting  Architectural  LED 

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Here at Inside CI we love ambitious lighting projects - and they don't come much bigger than this LED re-illumination of the Louvre.

The French national museum, which attracts 8,500,000 people a year and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is undergoing a complete lighting refit as part of a project undertaken with Toshiba's LED lighting division.

It's a work in progress. From now, the famous Pyramid, the three pyramidions and the Colbert pavilion of the Louvre will be suffused with the soft glow of LED lighting every evening and night. The remaining facades of the Napoleon Court will be completed in April 2012, and the courtyard will follow in 2013.

As part of the design remit, it was declared that the Louvre must be lit in such a way that brought out its intrinsic beauty; drawing attention to the building yet not intruding on its atmosphere. Physical light fittings had to be discrete in the extreme. Working in collaboration with the Louvre team, Toshiba's lighting engineers developed and installed six different types of LED lights and ten types of lighting fixtures, including high beam-lamps to illuminate the Pyramid and the palace walls.

Takayoshi Moriyama, Specialist at Toshiba lighting and technology, says that to satisfy the Louvre Museum and the Paris Historical Monuments Committee, his team had to design manufacture prototype equipment, install it and conducted repeated illumination tests.

"Naturally there was much debate about the exterior colour of the fixtures and their shape too. In Japan we tend to design in a linear progression but in this case we had to harmonise the fixtures with the building as part of the scenery. Ultimately, through a process of having sketches drawn, we came up with a new design using a shape that made the most of contours."

He adds: "For the LEDs in this project we proposed a colour temperature that is called 'light bulb colour' in Japan (2700 Kelvin) but in France the preference is for a warmer colour temperature that has an orange-tinted light source. This resulted in conducting an experiment where we shone Japan's light bulb colour and the orange-tinted light on the same facade. We had everyone observe this, out in the falling snow. If the status quo was to be preserved then it would have stayed orange but Director Loyrette's response was, 'No, this is good. Let's go with the light bulb colour.' Mr. Frédéric Auclair from the Paris Historical Monuments Committee also lent support saying, 'If Japan embraces the light bulb colour then I think it's fine for us to represent that culture' I felt strongly that having honest, sincere debate and deep communication was a necessary part of providing the client with something that would earn praise."

This week's switch-on ceremony turned on 350 light fittings out of a total of 3,200 that will eventually replace all 4,500 high energy xenon lamps which have been used to date. When fully installed, Toshiba says the environmentally-friendly LEDs will cut the annual power consumption for exterior lighting by a massive 73 per cent, from 392,000 to 105,000 watts-per-hour. 

For more on this extraordinary project click here.

 

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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