The Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights are three of the most important documents in U.S. history. Collectively known as the Charters of Freedom, they are housed in the Rotunda of the National Archives Museum in Washington, D.C. Lighting design firm Available Light was tasked with relighting the space to meet four specific requirements: to make sure there were no measurable UV emissions, to improve color rendering, to provide multi-zone dimming controls, and to develop a lighting system that would require little maintenance.
The space, in reality a half rotunda, was lit by a series of fiber optic spotlights powered by metal halide illuminators located along the upper cornice line ledge. Over time, though, the illuminators failed, and the fiber was discoloring and its intensity was diminishing.
How, then, do you light this architecturally complex space while maintaining public access during the renovation process? Rely on drawings and mock-ups. So the lighting team developed their design using scanned, unscaled drawings dating from the 1930s and the 1980s, along with trial and error through the mock-up process.
To provide a soft, even layer of indirect light across the ceiling dome, arches, and vaults, the lighting team developed a series of custom LED fixtures. Three-tiered, 2850K linear LED luminaires with a CRI of 93-plus light the main rotunda, and a single-tiered version, a linear LED strip, lights the archways and vaulted ceilings.
The lighting designers worked closely with their manufacturing partners to develop low-profile luminaires that would meet the desired spectral quality and beam control along with improved energy efficiency. (The new lighting system uses only 1,800W, rather than the previous system’s 11,000W.) The result is a lighting design that artfully celebrates the architectural envelope and the treasures of national import within.
An impressive technical feat given the scale of the space.
Lovely quality of light.
Project Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, National Archives Museum, Washington, D.C.
Entrant Available Light
Owner National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
Client Luxam, Coral Gables, Fla.
Lighting Designer Available Light, Salem, Mass.
Team Members Steven Rosen, Cynthia Gernetzke, Rachel Miner
Photographers Jay Rosenblatt Photography; Steven Rosen
Project Size 11,000 square feet
Project Cost Withheld
Lighting Costs $135,000 (hardware)
Watts per Square Foot 0.19
Code Compliance Exhibition lighting was exempt
Manufacturers Lumenpulse, Lutron, Prolume
To see all of the other winners of the 2014 AL Light & Architecture Design Awards, click here.