08. Nov 2016

“Foil” an installation in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London/GB

Text: Jo-Eike Vormittag

Photos: Ed Reeve


Light can have an incredible impact on us and our environment in many different ways. “Foil”, the immersive light art piece that was installed in Room 94 in the Victoria and Albert Museum during the London Design Festival, demonstrates this perfectly. The light applied, together with the reflections and the scattered light, not only make the museum space and the works look completely different; they also have a strong effect on the visitor.


Room 94 is not just any space with any kind of exhibits in it. The space is dominated by three hunting tapestries belonging to the Duke of Devonshire that date back to the 15th century. The light, humidity and temperature in the gallery are carefully controlled to protect the tapestries, which are among the most valuable exhibits in the whole of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The atmosphere and quality of the space, as well as the works of art themselves, are truly unique within the building. Reason enough for Benjamin Hubert and the team from his design studio Layer to opt to place their installation in the centre of this very space. The project has a clear commercial background: the designers worked closely together with Braun, a well-established German manufacturer of small electrical appliances, in order to promote the foil finish on the next generation of Braun shavers. And it is this very mirrored foil, which is applied across the blades in a shaver and is otherwise overlooked when in daily use, that the designers chose to use to realise “Foil”. The large-scale installation comprises 50,000 mirror-finish stainless steel panels on a 20-metre by 1.2-metre undulating ribbon that runs the length of the gallery and is driven by a high-power German motor in a constant sine-wave motion. Light from LEDs bounces off the reflective surface to create a slowly morphing, mesmerising pattern of scattered light, moving across the walls and ceiling of the gallery. “Foil” lends the museum space, which is designed to protect and exhibit old, culturally significant woven art pieces, a completely new feel: it triggers emotions and renders what is real and present, such as the forms and colours in the space or the huge tapestries with hunting scenes, quite differently. The exhibits in the gallery still dominate the space, even in conjunction with the light art installation. Through the specially designed lighting effects the visitor is not only drawn in – maybe even distracted to a certain extent. He is purposefully invited to stop and gaze and take the scene in, and is thus also able to re-consider the art in the glow of the multiple reflections and scattered light. Room 94 features solid hardwood flooring, a light-coloured ceiling and dark blue walls, which together provide opportune conditions for the innovative lighting solution. It spreads softly from below, rather than in a dominant fashion, across the walls and onto the ceiling, a veil of light through which the works of art can still be seen and recognised.



Both the museum space and the exhibits are real and designed to last. The lighting effects generated by and through the installation succeed in realising a new perception of this reality and representation and create a heightened emotional experience for the viewer. Thus the light impacts both the architecture and the user of the space to the same extent.

Design: Design studio Layer – Benjamin Huber, in collaboration with Braun


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