Westminster Abbey serves as a museum, a performance venue, a national monument,a burial place, and most importantly, a working church. The Abbey’s history goes back about 1000 years. The Westminster Abbey nave rises to 102 feet above its stone floor. The nave’s intricately detailed ceiling is the tallest gothic nave in England.
The medieval triforium surrounds the nave over 50 feet above the abbey floor. This part of the Abbey was hidden from the public for over 700 years. The triforium was then reborn in June of 2018 as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Gallery (QDJG). Named in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign of over 60 years, the gallery showcases more than 300 artifacts from the Abbey’s collection that reveal the story of its 1000-year history.
The triforium is shaped roughly like the Greek letter omega (W), with views into the nave and chancel, outward to the Abbey grounds, Big Ben, Westminster Palace, and the bustling streets of London. Sunlight streams in through Gothic windows that are set with stained glass and clear panes. The sunlight shines onto the onto rough wood floors which then diffuse the light onto the palace’s stone walls. Timber beams support the roof which rises up to 5 meters above the floor.
Stuart McKnight, partner at McInnes Usher McKnight Architects in London (MUMA), describes his first visit, “On our first visit to the Triforium, we were struck by its otherworldly quality and unexpected characteristics – the unfolding spaces with intriguing
glimpses inviting exploration, opportunities for views and the stunning vista along the Chancel, the crankiness of the timber, the beauty of the stone, the contrast between sunbeams and shadows, patterns of light and patterns of structure. We felt that it was
important that the making of a modern museum display did not undermine or compete with the unique qualities of the space. “
DHA Designs Contracted to Devise Lighting Scheme Westminster Abbey Triforium
MUMA contracted Peter Fordham at DHA designs to study and engineer the new gallery with a lighting scheme that would optimize the use of natural light while protecting photosensitive artifacts. Peter Fordham at DHA Designs was responsible
for lighting design from initial concept to project completion.
“The lighting design is a traditional track and spot solution, using black lighting track fixed to then 5m high timber ceilings between the deep timber beams, allowing maximum flexibility on site during the commissioning and focusing stages,” explained Peter.
Peter says that when his team with DHA Designs started the project, they knew that they wanted to keep the lighting control as simple as possible. The team was also intent on avoiding using DALI controls because of the slow and clumsy commissioning process.
Choosing Xicato GalaXi™ Bluetooth controls
Peter’s discovered Xicato XIM Gen4 LED modules when he visited the Mike Stoane Lighting (MSL) booth at Light+Build 2016. At Light+Building 2016, MSL was showcasing their new track fixtures incorporating Xicato XIM Gen4 LED modules with an integrated driver and Bluetooth connectivity.
The modules along with compatible sensors, drivers, switches, gateways and software comprise Xicato’s GalaXi™ portfolio.
“I had read about Xicato’s XIM Bluetooth modules already, but never really understood what they could do in the museum and gallery environment. And I’d certainly never seen it in operation before. Mike Stoane’s display had it all: the usual, lockable fixtures that I know and trust from Mike Stoane, plus Xicato’s LEDs delivering quality white light which I could control with ease using my iPhone, plus battery operated PIR motion and lux sensors hidden into a picture frame that connect via Bluetooth to the LEDs,” Peter said.
Back in the UK, DHA Designs worked closely with MSL and Xicato to incorporate the Xicato GalaXi modules into the project before the opening of the space to the public.
DHA Team Made Site Mock-Ups to Demonstrate Light Quality and Control Technology
The team prepared on-site mock-ups with fixtures and sensors to demonstrate the quality of light and the new Bluetooth control technology to Westminster Abbey and the lighting design team.
Fordham explained,“Using Bluetooth control, we were able to simplify the lighting installation instantly, by providing only non-dimmable power to the lighting track. By reducing the amount of equipment and the extent of cabling we saved over £12,000 on a conventional lighting control system.”
They automated the lighting control during operating hours using PIR motion and lux sensors. The system carefully adjusts the artificial light levels based on the sunlight from windows. And they use PIR motion sensors to turn on the lights when there are people present and increase the light levels almost imperceptively as people get closer. The lights then fade as people move to adjacent areas.
Peter noted, “the Clerk of Works at Westminster Abbey was adamant to have a single lighting control panel to turn on and off the lights at any time of day or night, without using a smartphone.”
The solution utilized Xicato Xtouch MG app for Android, available free on the Google Play store.
Commissioning and Programming
DHA Designs first gave the Mike Stoane fixtures with a device number and name, so that it could be easily and uniquely identified by the Xicato GalaXi Control Panel application. With the lighting plan in hand, the team positioned the lights. Then, the team programmed the light levels, group and scene membership, and sensor responses into each node.
Xicato LEDs were not the only light sources. For example, backlit stained glass displays in two of the chapel bays use linear LED strips from KKDC with remote dimmable drivers and several of the displays integrate remote fiber optic lighting. All of the lighting had to be controlled using the Xicato GalaXi control system. A GalaXi-powered intelligent bridge from Xicato partner Eulum Systems allows the system to leverage third-party drivers. The intelligent bridge converts Bluetooth commands into 1-10V dimming signals, with a hard relay for on/off control.
The system had to control 250 fixtures as a single group from one location when the luminaires are scattered in a horseshoe-shaped plan around two sides of a stone Abbey.
Control System had to Work with Even With Hard-to-reach Lights and Sensors
The control system also had to be able to work with a few of the lights and sensors and some control nodes that were in hard-to-reach places including some nodes buried below displays and beneath the flooring. A combination of Bluetooth gateways and Bluetooth mesh networking made up the solution.
Bluetooth mesh networking was activated only where needed and was simple to configure. Xicato and MSL put gateways in the locations where WiFi coverage was most needed. After installing the gateways, communications with a few particularly hard-to-reach nodes were designated as relay nodes. Unfortunately, wireless coverage changed as the exhibits were installed, impacting both the Bluetooth and the Wifi network.
Eventually, however, DHA Designs ensured that the lighting commands could be distributed seamlessly and reliably throughout the Abbey. The system gives Abbey facility managers centralized visibility to monitor every node in the space using the Xicato Control Panel software.