Aberdeen Art Gallery






Speirs Major


Aberdeen City Council


As a key part of its recent extensive refurbishment, Speirs Major have re-lit the interior and exterior of Aberdeen Art Gallery, including existing and new galleries, event spaces and cafes. The design delivers the impression of bright, naturally lit spaces consistently throughout the year, smoothing out the effects of natural variation in daylight hours, and has given the Gallery a positive new after-dark identity.Visitors enter and circulate vertically through the centralised atrium known as the 'Sculpture Court', which benefits from natural light from the lifted renovated skylight above. Lit on one side, the beams that cross the void appear as a feature, while also providing reflected light for circulation. A bronze linear detail to either side of the new staircase creates a strong visual reference point for wayfinding, with soft uplighting to the vaulted arches and the sculptural frieze helping to frame the historic space.In the historic Remembrance Hall, a new 5.5 meter diameter custom pendant raises and lowers to allow the Gallery to adapt the atmosphere of the space for various uses. A simple circular design with glowing sides, it casts light up into the dome, down to the gallery floor and also sideways, as well as incorporating audio-visual projectors for events.  At the perimeter of the Hall, the detail of the stepped columns is highlighted, to emphasise their unique geometry.Throughout the display spaces, artificial lighting has been carefully integrated to enhance the architecture, while also prioritising visitor enjoyment of the art. The new second floor and roof extension blocked daylight from existing first floor galleries; to preserve the character of these spaces, colour temperature adjustable lay lights behind the glazed panels help to recreate the feeling of natural light. The soft curvature of the ceiling is revealed by a concealed linear detail, and a slender lighting track runs around the edge of the roof light, allowing for flexible spotlighting.As a prominent Grade I listed building, a sensitive approach to the external lighting was required. Simple and refined, light emphasises historical elements and marks the original gallery entrance portico. Pin light details pick up the new roof extension cladding, its rhythm and materiality echoed in the warm custom-designed pendants visible through the windows to the new cafĂ©. The presence of the adjacent War Memorial and entrance to Cowdray Hall is reinforced at night by highlights to the colonnade, stone plaques and sculptural lion.