White Light Oversees Lighting Installation at Royal Albert Hall

The mushroom-shaped lighting domes are synonymous with the Royal Albert Hall’s main space, having been in place for more than 12 years. With technology having advanced so rapidly during this time, the venue recently decided to replace the existing domes with energy-efficient, flexible fixtures.  Not only did these need to use the latest LED technology and be easy to control but also had to be custom-made to fit the space.  White Light was approached to provide an exact solution.

WL has a long history with the Royal Albert Hall. The production solution specialist has an annual lighting service contract with the music and entertainment venue and has provided lighting equipment for numerous events held there including The Institute of Directors, Space Spectacular and the Champions Tennis.

Steph Baldwin, Technical Projects Manager at the Royal Albert Hall, commented: “The brief was to update the mushroom (acoustic dome) downlights, chandelier lamps and the gallery globe lights, as well install new fixtures within the roof tray in order to fully illuminate the Circle. It was the first time overhead lighting above the top tier of seating had been fitted.”

The mushroom lights all had tungsten light fittings along with individual motors connected to the roof. These fittings and the motor were removed and replaced with a GDS High Output LED Single Source Downlighter 120W. GDS worked closely with the Royal Albert Hall to create this fixture to ensure it was suitable for the mushrooms; offering an appropriate amount of coverage and also being energy efficient.

The project was overseen by WL’s Installations Business Development Manager Chris Harris. He commented: “One incentive behind the replacement was enabling the lights to be controlled individually via DMX, providing the capability to turn alternate units off during down time. To achieve this, the existing cabling umbilical connected in the roof was used and new power and data cabling was installed that was linked back to new GDS rack mount drivers in the motor control room. This meant that the drivers could be maintained easily should it be necessary.”

Alongside the rapid advancements in lighting technology, there was a practical reason for the replacement too. The motors that held the existing lights were starting to fail and it was these that brought in the fixtures to the deck for re-lamping independently of the mushroom lights. “Bringing the mushrooms down to the arena is a substantial operation and, as such, it was becoming harder to maintain,” said Steph. “They can only be cleaned once every four years on a rolling program so it was important to have a reliable fixture that would not be affected both optically and operationally by dust.”

WL also supplied lighting for the Gallery chandeliers, using an Arc Lamp Candle 24V Clear 2,700K. To light the Circle ArcSystem Pro 4-Cell Linear units were used. The entire hall was modelled by GDS in Dialux to ensure the correct fixtures were chosen. This has allowed us to achieve greater Lux levels in the refurbished areas and has significantly improved the emergency lighting coverage across the space.

Chris stated: “Replacing the original tungsten fittings with the LED fixtures was an immediate energy saver. The fact that the mushroom lamps will have the capability to be controlled individually will also save energy as the venue will no longer need to have all the lights switched on at once.”

One of the biggest challenges for the installation was time. As the Royal Albert Hall is used every week – with over 390 events annually, plus another 600 in the smaller spaces – WL had to work around this schedule. The venue has two maintenance periods annually in April and September so there was no option but to work within this timeframe. This meant that planning was key so White Light worked closely with GDS and the Royal Albert Hall in the pre-production stages to ensure every minute on site was used productively.

Chris comments: “This project is a great example of how WL as a company is able to work with a renowned venue to not only provide their exact requirements but do so both on time and on budget. The new domes will ensure that the lighting is much easier to control and far more energy efficient than the previous set-up; offering the ideal solution.”