Pembroke College Old Library, Cambridge, UK

The Old Library started as Pembroke College’s original Chapel. Its more striking feature is the ornate and very intricate plaster ceiling, whose design is attributed to Henry Doogood, the chief plasterer of Sir Christopher Wren and dates back to 1690.

dpa was invited to design the lighting for the Old Library, to coincide with extensive renovation and conservation work that was integral to the project.

The lighting scheme utilises compact LED light sources that are fully concealed within the architectural fabric of the room, providing both functional lighting as well as highlighting the striking architectural features. These included the deep window reveals, timber paneling with pediment and crest.

The lighting design serves to celebrate the story depicted within Doogood’s plaster ceiling, with particular emphasis focused on the cherubs, shields, motifs, scrolls and birds, providing a sense of theatre.

The multiple layers of lighting can be utilised to provide the room with numerous dimmed lighting scenes, catering for the diverse needs of the College.

The result is sympathetic to the historical character and spirit of the room and fully reversible, enhancing the key architectural elements and providing a dramatic backdrop for the wide range of functions that the room is used for. The lighting scheme has been well integrated into the building interior, whilst creating minimal disturbance to the fabric with all lighting equipment neatly hidden from normal view, with the exception of the wall lights that accommodate a discreet spotlight that uplights the timber crest above. Warm white light sources have been utilised throughout to align with the materiality and texture of the interior architecture.

With a total connected load of 1.18 kW, the entire installation could be operated from a single 13 amp socket.

Client: Pembroke College Cambridge
Architects: NRAP, Cambridge
Photography: dpa lighting consultants