Preserving the uniqueness of the instruments: a new structure houses the lighting fixtures to avoid high temperatures and UV rays inside. Light and shadow on the Stradivarius, thanks to the indirect light of the rooms




City Hall, Cremona – Italy


Gae Aulenti Associates

The exhibition dedicated to Antonio Stradivari - the greatest violin maker of all times - is an example of a lighting intervention in a nineteenth-century context - the Cremona Town Hall. The essential exhibition setup, designed by architect Gae Aulenti, left maximum visual space to the work and was based on the cogency of a square and modular grid that united and strengthened the image of the musical instruments. The glass showcases, specially conceived for Stradivarius violins, had a very simple, airy design, which allowed these valuable objects to be the absolute protagonists. Zinc was selected for lining the horizontal plane together with 6 mm thick glass, fastened to thin brass sections in order to ensure safety and not to alter the natural color of the antique wood of the violins. The stove enameled steel supporting structure, a brick red color, was the only chromatic element inside the exhibition. To prevent the risk of exposing the instruments to an excess of heat and ultraviolet rays, an element called a “tower” - formally very similar to the glass cases but whose only task was to support the lighting fixtures - was designed. These towers supported a nickel-plated metal grid, inclined at an angle of 45° to the ground; housed in these grids were nine 100 W 24 V halogen lamps with built in optics and beams that could be directed onto a semi-opaque white painted metallic reflecting panel, inclined and sized so as to limit any dispersion of luminous flux, by orientating them onto the adjacent glass showcases. This controlled the ratio of light to shade on the instruments. Indirect light, limited to 300 lux per room, with a color temperature of 3000 K, was obtained and was ideal for the smooth, curved, wooden surfaces of the Stradivarius.