Jesus College Dining Hall, Cambridge, UK

When founded in 1496, the College was made up of buildings taken over from the Nunnery of St. Mary and St. Radegund, namely the Chapel and Nuns’ Refectory, which became the College Dining Hall.  The Hall is a magnificent room that has been the centre of College life from the outset.  The space is characterised by the extensive timber vaulted roof structure, bosses which decorate the springing point of the trusses, tall arched window openings with deep reveals and an ornate reredos with raised dais and the Royal Arms of Queen Anne sitting above the cornice at high level.

The walls accommodate portraits of previous Masters and students of the College, whilst the entrance elevation hosts a balustraded balcony with a charming small bay window set into the rear wall. When entering the Hall you are greeted by a majestic cockerel, the symbol of Jesus College, after the surname of it’s founder, John Alcock.

The lighting design brief required the new lighting system to provide a flexible approach to highlight key features within the Hall, whilst improving the overall ambient light level and addressing the maintenance aspects associated with the old scheme where the switched only tungsten lamps were failing on a regular basis and were expensive to run and maintain.

A palette of lighting applications and techniques were determined through lighting visualisations and on-site trials and designed such that each lit element was individually controlled using dimmable long life LED fixtures, whilst ensuring that an appropriate lit balance could be struck on the lighting control system via a number of lighting scenes, according to the time of day and type of dining activity taking place.  A particular challenge was how to illuminate both the portraits and the decorative bosses, whilst minimising visual clutter and not adding too much lighting equipment on to the deep window sills.  The neatest solution was to bathe the portraits with warm white light from a linear LED picture light, which would then also house an integral miniature LED adjustable spotlight at either end of the profile and aimed back at the bosses.  Other tricks included integrating a miniature fixture within the chandelier at the balcony end to illuminate the cockerel, which takes pride of place on entry to the Hall.

Client: Jesus College, Cambridge
Photography: dpa lighting consultants