A DISPLAY OF SENSITIVITY
One of the more intriguing lighting projects to emerge recently is the scheme for the
latest attempt to convey the prehistorical richness of the Lascaux cave paintings without
compromising the integrity of the originals (see page 134). The actual cave system in
central France has been closed to the public since 1963 to avoid the contamination and
damage which tourist hoardes inevitably wreak.
The new Snøhetta-designed museum on the site, like its predecessor, includes a replicated
cave system with faithfully rendered versions of the 17,000-year-old cave paintings.
Some decades ago these might have been lit somewhat indifferently. It would probably
have been considered sufficient to rig up some track and spot in the traditional museum
lighting fashion. But just as the authorities have been at pains to reproduce with total
fidelity the extraordinary ancient artworks, down to using the exact same pigments and
painting techniques, so the lighting has been considered at a very detailed level.
While illumination from receptacles of burning deer fat did for the Cro-Magnons they
are clearly impractical, to say nothing of risky, for today’s purposes. But the lit effect and
viewpoints of contemporary sources have been painstakingly modelled with reference
to those ancient lamps. This is not just about being able to see the art, but to see it as our
ancestors did. It’s about levels, movement, texture and nuance, evoking atmosphere and
conjuring up the past. All, of course, while avoiding the tackiness of pastiche.
As US architect Rand Elliott, interviewed in this issue, would put it, it’s understanding
light ‘at a very poetic level’, an attribute he aims to bring to all his projects. ‘The lighting
is really, for me, a way to express the spirit of the project.’
Jill Entwistle, Editor
17 COMMENT LIGHTING MAGAZINE
VOLUME 49 • ISSUE 01 2017
ING LIGHT ING