Lighting retrofit transforms Palazzo Grassi exhibition spaces

Nov. 1, 2023
A lighting systems upgrade at the historic building in Venice, Italy, created a sustainable and flexible design for a unique gallery.

The grandeur of an 18th-century noble residence serves as the backdrop and exhibition venue for the Pinault Collection in Venice. Transformed into an exhibition space in the mid-1900s, Palazzo Grassi was renovated into a contemporary art museum and opened to the public by noted collector François Pinault. A mid-2000s renovation led by the renowned Japanese architect Tadao Ando celebrated the existing structure while rearranging spaces purposefully.

Nearly 20 years on, Palazzo Grassi continues to host rotating exhibits of Pinault’s approximately 10,000-piece collection as well as curated shows. In 2023, the collection curators sought to upgrade the lighting system for the 40 exhibit spaces yet preserve the historical integrity of the building.

Energy efficient yet beautiful

Key objectives of the new lighting system were to preserve Palazzo Grassi’s ornate ceilings and frescos and to integrate the new fixtures within the existing suspended-beam systems designed by Ando. Palazzo Grassi’s staff worked with ERCO to design an approach using the lighting manufacturer’s Parscan 48V LED spotlights. Designed for galleries and museums, the spotlight system incorporates dimming capabilities and interchangeable light distribution. The low-profile design of the fittings preserves the minimal lines of the existing beams.

The wall washer effects of the Parscan spotlights evenly illuminate the displayed artworks, avoiding shadows. The neutral white LED sources specified have a CCT of 3500K and a CRI of 92 to help ensure accurate color rendering. The Parscan system incorporates tool-free optics that simplify quick lighting scheme changes.

“Light is not merely a functional aspect but a critical component of the design in presenting artworks and illuminating historical architecture,” said Michele Cascio, marketing manager Italia at ERCO in a release. “It helps shape the viewer’s experience, eliciting emotions, and facilitating understanding and appreciation of the art and architecture.”

The architecture of Palazzo Grassi is also accentuated with Parscan spotlights, including the grand marble staircase with original frescos.

Wireless control

The lighting throughout Palazzo Grassi is controlled with ERCO’s Casambi wireless controller, which uses Bluetooth technology. The lighting control system can be designed with switch and dimmer options, lighting scenes and responsive sensors. Through a mobile controls app, the curators can make real-time adjustments to suit the lighting needs of specific areas of the galleries.

About the Author

Linda Becker

Linda Becker is editor-in-chief of LightSPEC (formerly Architectural SSL). She has more than 20 years of experience in B2B publishing, primarily focused on manufacturing and process applications. Since joining LightSPEC, she spends a lot of time appreciating lighting and the essential role it plays in how each of us experiences the world. 

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