Last week involved a meeting to see a ‘sky dome,’ at University College London. The reason for this was to test the day-lighting conditions at Watts Gallery and how we can improve the quality of light that enters the gallery.
I had never heard of a ‘sky dome’ before and for those, like myself, who do not know what one is, a brief word of explanation is needed. It is a large hemisphere made up of lights with an artificial sun which can move to any position within the dome. Inside this dome is placed a model of the building to be tested and the sun is moved to replicate any hour on any day of the year. The lamps in the dome replicating overcast conditions.
The experience reminded one, in part, of a BBC imagined alien spaceship, perhaps one that had escaped from a set of Doctor Who. In the hemisphere was placed a model of Watts Gallery and all conditions were tested to see how light would fall within the building. This is both to ensure that daylight continues to be the main lighting during the day and that no pictures are sun burnt in the process. It was fascinating and illuminated all of Watts Gallery’s struggles over the lighting in its 104 year history. The tests help us enormously in the architect designing to give a lighting that remains unique and shows the paintings to good effect.