20 Dec 2017 / IALD /

Illumination of National Gallery in Singapore

The National Gallery Singapore is a unique symbiosis of two large colonial buildings – the Former Supreme Court and the City Hall – housing the largest collection of art in Southeast Asia. As pictures show, this is not a typical art gallery, requiring lighting that was both sensitive and able to showcase the artworks on display in a strong historical narrative. The lighting intent is restrained, emphasizing a soft layering of light, and concealed discreetly within the architectural details. 


On the façade, the horizontality of the building is emphasized by narrow beam LED uplights that draw the eye to cornices and architraves. From afar, layered light creates a subtle contrast between the columnar architecture and the façade. The façade window shades are uplit to create a soft internal glow. The interior retains much significant Singaporean history, courtrooms and civic halls juxtaposing with art galleries. Lighting for the gallery interiors is a combination of vertical illumination and accent light, with a maximum of 30% daylight penetration.

The lighting design team worked closely with the architect to develop nearly invisible light fixtures. Outside, the LED system is concealed within compact enclosures to avoid anachronistic clash with the historical façade. A three-way variable optics gimbal, flush within the historical ceilings, allowed flexibleaiming in the interiors. The use of downlights is restricted to a minimum, allowing light to reflect off the pure, uncluttered historical surfaces.


Significant research went into selecting the correct LED system for this application. Key criteria were studied and tested in mockups, including uniformity (for a soft homogenous wall wash), perceived color temperature and color rendering, flicker and blue wavelength peaking, glare control and spill light, and future flexibility in changing exhibits. The team opted for an older generation of LED phosphor that offered better natural color rendering compared to more current generation.

Being two civic landmarks, the project was filled with old decorative lighting fixtures. The team lovingly restored these and retrofitted them with E27 based LED lamps. These pendants and chandeliers co-exist with the direct and indirect lighting solutions of glareless downlights, cove lights and concealed wall washers. Designers also selected a highly complex network of dimmers including phase control to DALI track lighting. Fixtures are dimmable and controllable by group, allowing the end user to achieve the desired balance of light.

Kaoru Mende, FIALD
Gaurav Jain, Associate IALD
Yaeko Hashimoto, Associate IALD
Mami Ichida
Lighting Planners Associates

studioMilou singapore

Pico Art International Pte Limited

© Lighting Planners Associates
© Toshio Kaneko

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