Focus Lighting: The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Focus Lighting: Lights the Natural History Museum in LA

Focus Lighting adds drama to prehistoric creatures at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Focus Lighting: Lights the Natural History Museum in LA

The aim of the renovated Dinosaur Hall is to bring paleontology alive to curious museum-goers, and the strategic placement of lighting accomplishes just that. The lighting installation by Focus Lighting in New York City received an Award of Recognition in the Commercial category for the 35th annual SOURCE Awards, sponsored by Cooper Lighting this year.

Located within the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the renovated Dinosaur Hall impresses visitors with its series of 70’-long dinosaurs. The lighting design brings these creatures to life in this 14,000-sq.-ft. exhibit, all while adhering to California’s stringent energy-efficiency standards. By bringing clarity and definition to the exhibit’s 300 fossils and 20 full-body specimens, the dinosaurs and sea creatures from millions of years ago become a tangible reality.

The new hall is designed to allow visitors to wander around and, in some instances, underneath the specimens. Because of their innovative platforms, many of the major mounts are not surrounded by thick glass, providing the opportunity for an up-close look at the fossils.

Lighting is especially important for these museum exhibits since many of these fossils were prepared and articulated in recent years using modern paleontological methods that forgo the thick layers of shellac used by fossil preparers of decades past. Therefore, never-before-seen details of the fossils are revealed. Some have rich red and green hues colored by the minerals in the region where they were found. Some contain visible internal organs, skin textures and, in one instance, the stomach contents of a last meal!

Upon entering the Dinosaur Hall, visitors are greeted by a 25’-long Triceratops and a 68’-long Mamenchisaurus. The lighting design was tailored to each of the massive creatures within the exhibit down to the miniscule fossils, all while maintaining the visitors’ visual interest and comfort.

Since the space is primarily used during the day, it was important to incorporate natural light into the lighting design. As the daylight shifts, it acts as fill light washing over the exhibits. Accent lighting is provided by the track fixtures installed on the high ceiling while those on the lower ceiling highlight specific areas.

For this project, the lighting designers selected io linear LED fixtures to be installed within the table cases and they worked closely with the fabricators and exhibit curators to determine the proper angle and position for each exhibit. Approximately 110 mock-ups were created on-site, at the designers’ office, and at the fabricator shop to determine the specific lighting needs of each specimen. For example, in order to illuminate the deep, uneven crevices within the Gnatalie Jacket, the design team conducted thorough studies to determine the appropriate beam spread on specific areas.

In another exhibit, precisely placed linear LEDs illuminate a set of ingrained and fossilized footprints that are recessed into the floor, inviting visitors to stand over them. Because of their slim profile, the fixtures allow for clean lines within both the recessed case and the wall case.

This permanent exhibition is twice the size of the museum’s previous dinosaur galleries and boasts the world’s only Tyrannosaurus rex growth series that displays three skeletons: a T.rex that is 17 years old, a 13-year-old teenaged T.rex, and a baby/toddler one aged 2 years old.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, the Dino Hall is a project led by the museum’s Dinosaur Institute, which has been collecting and researching for the exhibit since 2005. The first installment opened in summer 2011 with three more permanent exhibitions expected to be unveiled by 2013.

Project: Dinosaur Hall at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, Calif.
Lighting Design: Focus Lighting, New York City`
Lighting Designers: Paul Gregory, principal lighting designer; Juan Pablo Lira, senior lighting designer;
Hilary Manners, lighting designer; and Kenneth Schutz, project manager
Lighting Products Used: The io Line Series .75 Linear LED Luminaires

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