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Science Gallery, London

Casting new light on art and science

Science Gallery London is a new cultural venue at the heart of King’s College’s campus in London Bridge. Pulling together art and science, the gallery provides a space for conversation and connection between artists, scientists and young adults.

First announced in 2013, work began on the construction in April 2016. Arup is delighted to have been commissioned to provide lighting and venue design services. 

In close collaboration with LTS Architects, the design of the Gallery evolved to include exhibition spaces, a theatre, a café and a shop. The undeveloped Georgian courtyard was also transformed from car park to a newly-landscaped public square, creating a place where communities can connect and integrating the new building with the surrounding urban landscape.

A well-defined night-time identity

The lighting design for the Science Gallery project was developed to define a night-time identity for the new cultural destination. Our designers worked closely with LTS Architects to develop a lighting strategy that draws visitors to the building, encourages them to dwell within the landscaped areas outside, and finally draws them into the social and gallery spaces.

Key to this approach was the design of the lift tower, a unique feature on the Great Maze Pond elevation. Clad in a unique laser printed glazing system our team worked closely with the architect to integrate dynamic lighting within the design, carefully selecting optics to ensure that the edgelit lasered glass comes to life in the hours of darkness. Dynamic controls allow the Gallery and visiting artists to use the installation to support the exhibition within or be an installation in itself. It is a beacon for the project, drawing visitors from afar.

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Once close to the building visitors experience a night-time environment that is defined by lighting integrated and concealed within the landscaping features. Lighting integrated within ramps and stairs lead visitors into the building.

Lighting tracks have been used throughout, allowing spaces to be converted into galleries or social space with ease.

Flexible spaces supporting a varied programme

Through a varied programme, the gallery will continually strive to reflect the community it serves. To support this, the building was designed with flexibility at its core to accommodate a wide range of uses. Our lighting approach for the interior of the building was defined by the desire to achieve highly adaptable spaces. Lighting tracks have been used throughout, allowing spaces initially intended for social use to be converted into galleries with ease. We also installed theatre lighting bars alongside lighting tracks to support theatrical and performance equipment when needed. Our venues team worked closely with the rest of the design team to ensure there would be a comprehensive infrastructure of theatre bars and theatre plug-in points to enable performances to spill beyond the walls of the theatre into other areas throughout the gallery.


Designing for diverse performances

We ensured that the design of the 150-seat theatre would work as a robust, flexible space, capable of accommodating a broad range of events and performances.

Our venue designers worked closely with the Science Gallery team to understand the range and formats of performances and events the theatre would be expected to host. These included workshops, discussions, lectures, science demonstrations, comedy, dance, drama, musical theatre, cabaret, live music and film screenings. We visited the Science Gallery’s existing site in Dublin to understand the challenges they faced with hosting such a broad range of events and the ways in which their building could support unexpected performance types.

From this research, the theatre was designed to be used in many configurations, from flat floor standing to tiered seating, from small lecture podiums to large dance floor stages. The audience can be located anywhere, facing any direction, with temporary control consoles set up anywhere in the space. This equipment can be removed altogether to create a simple, end-on, easy-to-use lecture format. Large structural beams have been used to mask the overhead theatre equipment gird and add a sense of theatricality to the space.

The newly-landscaped public square The newly-landscaped public square

The newly-landscaped public square offers a place to rest and integrates the building with the surrounding urban landscape.