ARRI L7-C lights at the Royal Academy

ARRI L7-C lights at the Royal Academy

The SENSING SPACES exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, which ran from January to April 2014, brought together seven architects to explore the experiential qualities of great architecture -- how the sights, sounds and smells of designed spaces can elicit strong emotions. Scenic and lighting designer Shizuka Hariu of SHSH Architecture+Scenography was brought in by curator Kate Goodwin to ensure that the lighting of the exhibition melded perfectly with its impressive installations. For one particular space -- a lecture room designed by Dublin-based Grafton Architects -- she worked with eight ARRI L7-C LED lights, which were connected via a wireless DMX transmitter to a control desk that ran bespoke sequences over long periods to create the desired mood. ARRI Lighting Rental supplied the L7-Cs, and technician Matt Jackman-Smith, a former ARRI apprentice, assisted with the installation. Shizuka Hariu speaks here about working with the L7-C.

SENSING SPACES: curator tour

Curator Kate Goodwin conducts a video tour of the SENSING SPACES exhibition at London's Royal Academy of Arts, for parts of which scenic & lighting designer Shizuka Hariu made use of ARRI L7-C LED lampheads.

What was your role in the Grafton installation?


My role was to produce a lighting effect that presented the movement of natural sunlight on a winter's day in London, to ultimately enhance the intensity of the light.


What kind of lighting did Grafton want?


Initially, Grafton showed us the MONTANA DE TINDAYA by sculpture artist Eduardo Chillida to use as a reference for the lighting design. I needed to investigate how I could create these natural lighting effects, which would be more dramatic than purely functional lighting. After that the Grafton architects gave me total freedom to design the lighting for their installation. I found it very interesting to interpret their space by lighting for the specific times of day they wanted to show, according to their references. 

Why did you choose to use ARRI L7-C lights?

Exhibition light sources are often different from those used for film or performing arts lighting, but in this instance I decided to use ARRI L7-C units to deliver powerful, high-resolution lighting effects that would show the detail of the materials and bring a sense of natural daylight into the museum. We couldn't hang any lights in the Royal Academy, because it is a historic building, and there was a weight limit restricting the number of lights I could mount on the scaffolding; I also had to take into consideration energy consumption and environmental sustainability. The L7-Cs enabled me to have the minimum number of lights in order to achieve maximum light effect. They were powerful enough, and of sufficient quality, to recreate the feeling of natural rather than artificial light.

The fact that the L7-C does not heat up to high temperatures, even after many hours of use, was crucial.

How did you use the L7s to represent different times of day, or types of light?


I wanted to reproduce the lighting of four different winter days in London. One moment the visitor could feel the winter sun, the next, a snowy morning; this was to be programmed on a 20-minute loop. There were two holes at the top of the installation, in each of which I installed four L7-C lights; the sensitive, programmable colors of these lights allowed me to create lighting effects ranging from sunrise to sunset.


The first sequence was called Bright Winter, which was a sunny London day (3,200 K to 5,000 K). The second was Storm, during which the lighting sequence changed rapidly (again 3,200 K to 5,000 K). The third was Cold Winter, which had more emphasized white light and a slight lavender hue at the end of the sequence (4,000 K to 10,000 K). And the last one was Moonlight, for which I used not only tungsten color temperatures, but also green color balance, to produce a dimmed dark blue color.

Did the L7 lights prove to be an energy-efficient solution?

Compared to HMI or HQI, even to PAR or Profiles, the L7-C lights have much more sustainable energy consumption. The SENSING SPACES exhibition was open for 10 hours per day, seven days per week, which meant that my light had to perform consistently through long hours for the three to five thousand visitors each day, and for 75 days non-stop. After careful consideration I decided that the LED-based ARRI L7-C was the best product to make my lighting design achieve this, and to save on energy as well as maintenance.

The L7-C's beam angle can be adjusted between 15 and 50 degrees, which is useful because it allows the creation of precise focus points.

As far as I knew, nobody had ever used L7-C lights in an art museum before for such long opening hours and for so many days, so I had to convince the Royal Academy health and safety team that the L7-C was suitable to use in a museum. The fact that the L7-C does not heat up to high temperatures, even after many hours of use, was crucial because we could not permit any risk of damage to the art and architecture installations by fire.


Was it useful that the L7 is a Fresnel light and you were therefore able to focus the beam?


I used both wide and narrow beams to shape lighting effects that could reach all the way to the floor. The L7-C's beam angle can be adjusted between 15 and 50 degrees, which is useful because it allows the creation of precise focus points. I studied where these focus points should be positioned before the construction stage on this project, by using the Vectorworks Spotlight computer software.

Was it crucial for the L7 lights to be DMX-programmable? 

Not only did the L7-C lights let me create beautiful colors of anywhere up to 10,000 K, they also allowed me to balance the proportion of morning light, evening light and moonlight, and to carefully control the delivery of that light through a DMX console. It was wonderful to have the possibility of playing with a DMX console, manipulating high-resolution LED light, and I think this was quite a new approach to art or architecture lighting. 

The DMX console was a bit old-school compared to the high-tech L7-C (almost like having a supercar with a vintage car navigation system), but the programming was easy and the technical support team at ARRI Lighting Rental gave me the instruction I needed to dial in whatever program I needed. I was very grateful to ARRI Lighting Rental for supporting me any time I had questions.

Exhibition credits

  • SENSING SPACES -- Architecture Reimagined
  • Commission: Royal Academy of Arts
  • Curation: Kate Goodwin
  • Architectural installation in Lecture Room: Grafton Architects
  • Lighting Design: Shizuka Hariu / SHSH Architecture + Scenography
  • Lighting equipment: ARRI L7-C