RIAM recently undertook an expansion and technical upgrade to mark its 150th anniversary

Ireland - 3LR Lighting played a central role in specifying a new house lighting system for the Royal Irish Academy of Music (RIAM) in Dublin. One of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious music conservatoires, RIAM recently undertook an expansion and technical upgrade to mark its 150th anniversary.

As part of this, its 309-capacity Whyte Recital Hall has a new ArcSystem LED house lighting from ETC – for whom 3LR Lighting, as manufacturer’s representative, conducted the detailed consultation. Quality house lighting is, of course, fundamental to any auditorium which prioritises its aesthetic quality as much as its acoustics, for example. Here, however, aesthetic requirements were perhaps of even greater importance than usual.

As 3LR Lighting’s Matt Lloyd recalls, “The colour temperature, the CRI – how the light interacted with flesh tones – and the fade to warm, was all extremely important in this case, because it’s a very dark wood environment. We had to get it absolutely right.”

John Palmer of TODD Architects, lead architect for the RIAM project, says, “In the Whyte Recital Hall, the rich tones of the walnut wall linings, with the complementary tones of charcoal grey curtains and burnt orange seating upholstery, relied wholly on the quality of house lighting to deliver the prestige visual impact for an audience member’s first entry into the hall, and to properly set the tone for the performance to follow.”  

PSI Production, led by project manager David McKeown, was responsible for various aspects of the new technical installation. McKeown explains, “The house lighting design was initially the work of High Res Lighting, who specified ETC’s ArcSystem. We’ve worked with 3LR often and knew we could draw on their expertise to verify the design and ensure the quality of the house lighting, not just in terms of appearance, but in user control, regulations, and future maintenance.”

Lloyd also discussed with RIAM the benefits of LED binning and colour consistency as guarantees for the future. “Clients like to go with mature LED manufacturers for this very reason,” he says. “A manufacturer has to legally support a product for five years. ETC goes above that with a LED warranty for 10 years, so the client can be confident that any replacements will match perfectly.”

To confirm the proposal, 3LR worked closely with experienced architectural lighting designer and long-time associate Karoliina Helin, of Hehkuva Design, in Finland, to build a detailed DIALux plan of the specification. Lloyd says, “The DIALux model is around 95% accurate, so you can show the client and integrator what is actually going to be delivered – its actual appearance, the target Lux level, the spread of light in the building, the brightness in each seat and location, and more.”

The solution for RIAM includes over 80 ArcSystem Pro fixtures: 25 One-Cells, fitted into the acoustic baffles above the auditorium and stage; another 37 One-Cells covering the lobby areas, balcony levels and control room soffits; 12 Two-Cell units covering the side balconies; and 10 Four-Cell fixtures giving an over-stage wash for orchestras.

Pro fixtures provide a CRI >90, with smooth dimming and fine control down to a very low level, as well as a variety of colour temperatures and beam-spread options. Thanks to their convection cooling, they also have completely noiseless operation – essential for a prestigious classical music environment such as this. The fixtures are driven by ETC’s F-Drive cards, with ETC’s Mosaic architectural control system providing the user interface.

Commenting on the role as manufacturer representative, Lloyd says, “Our job is to use our extensive experience in these specialist applications, to provide the most efficient link between the integrator and the manufacturer. We bring those two together to give them the best possible result from the manufacturer’s product range. We help to make it straightforward, to get the best solution. We marry the two together.”

Of the consultation process, Palmer says, “With each step considered in detail during the course of the consultation, the house lighting design evolved progressively as part of the overall auditorium and became a fundamental part in the successful delivery of what is an interior performance space of exceptional quality.”

Lloyd says, “RIAM is right in the middle of Dublin, almost hidden behind a Georgian façade. You don’t expect to find a space of that eloquence there. It has a calmness to it. That comes from the design of the furniture, the finish of the walls, the seats, but the house lighting completes it. If you get the lighting wrong, you disrupt that effect. It’s really important to get it right, and I think we have – it’s a beautifully balanced space.”

Later in the year PSI Production and 3LR will continue their involvement with RIAM, with work scheduled to begin on the venue’s second space, the 150-seat Opera Studio. 

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