The Salon Doré
from the Hôtel de La Trémoille in Paris is one of the finest examples of French Neoclassical interior architecture currently on view in the United States. The richly carved and ornately guilded wall panels were designed during the reign of Louis XVI, and the room was first dismantled at its original rue Saint-Dominique location in 1877, eventually getting donated to the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco in 1959. In recent years, however, the curators felt that the lighting was missing the mark, and so the decision was made to restore the room to its original 18th century appearance.

Randy Dodson

John F. Martin

This meant that no modern lighting equipment could be visible, which presented a challenge for the lighting design team at Auerbach Glasow French. Furthermore, the designers also had to create an atmosphere that was representative of the time, which meant re-creating a quality of illumination that would emulate the look of candlelight and the room’s set scene: the gray twilight of the Paris sky. An additional layer of complexity was the fact that the historic fixtures were too fragile to move and had to be rewired and retrofitted on site.

John F. Martin
John F. Martin
John F. Martin

Throughout the project, the lighting designers cleverly figured out ways to conceal new lighting elements within the existing luminaires. For example, 7W faux wax candles are used in the historic fixtures to mimic the glow of candlelight, and 1W 14V automotive “glow lights” further enhance the feel. To achieve “Paris twilight,” fiber optic spotlights hidden in the chandelier are combined with LED grazing uplights in the narrow window cavities and 20W adjustable MR16 spotlights hidden in the wall sconce stanchions. To meet present-day requirements, emergency and work lights are concealed in a linear cove tucked into the historic cornice.


This intricate coordination of technical details has resulted in a restoration that not only captures the architectural spirit of this 18th century interior but the quality of illumination so distinct to the pre-electric lighting world. 

Details 

Project: California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Salon Doré, San Francisco • Client: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco • Architect: Andrew Skurman Architects, San Francisco • Lighting Designer: Auerbach Glasow French, San Francisco • Team Members: Patricia Glasow, Marlene Lieu • Photographer: John F. Martin Photography (except for “before” image) • Project Size: 673 square feet • Project Renovation Cost: $2 million • Lighting Cost: $317,000 • Watts per Square Foot: 1.3 (per square foot for exhibition); 0.96 per square foot for work light—not used together • Code Compliance: California Title 24 • Manufacturers: Acuity Brands/Winona Lighting, Lighting Services Inc, Lucifer Lighting, Luxam Phoenix Day, SPI

Jury Comments

• The lighting design is impressive given the limitations placed upon the design. • The technical sophistication is mind-blowing. • One has to really know lighting design in order to create this scheme.

John F. Martin