Oxford University Estates
Honouring a true historical gem.
One of Christopher Wren’s most celebrated buildings, the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford is a unique Grade I listed building. For centuries, the theatre relied on natural light penetration and, as such, was purely lit by daylight. However, contemporary night-time use of the space has made artificial lighting imperative, and during the past 80 years the theatre has gone through several lighting schemes.
Returning to the original.
Our Lighting Design group was commissioned to craft a design that was both sympathetic with the architecture and practical for variety of events that take place in the space.
Our concept was to return the theatre to its original state. The tired chandeliers, wall- and column-mounted fittings, and pendant luminaires were all removed. We then designed the artificial lighting to be concealed within the window sills, which cannot be seen from normal viewing positions. This provides wonderful washes of light to the window reveals as well as the vaulted ceilings in the upper and lower galleries. It also allows the theatre audiences to enjoy the volume of the space as it had been originally intended.
We specified a new lighting control system to give those working at the theatre far more control. Simple scene settings ensure each event type has an appropriate ambience. Significantly, event lighting was considered from the outset rather than needed to be hired in each time.
Our lighting design has significantly improved this unique historical interior, transforming it into a warm, luxurious and ambient environment, as well as making it a far more flexible space to use… all while honouring Sir Christopher Wren’s original vision for the theatre.