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Photography Centre | V&A Museum, London

Having worked with the V&A Museum on a number of projects previously, the award-winning Michael Grubb Studio was appointed to create the lighting design for galleries 95-99 of the new Photography Centre.

In this project, the visitor experience lighting design needed to be sensitive to, and in-keeping with, the rich historic architectural fabric of the V&A Museum. Each gallery of the project required a different approach to suit the needs and use of the space.

The Michael Grubb Studio team worked in close collaboration with the design and client team to deliver the extensive brief. Additionally, the team created the lighting scheme that was mindful of each gallery’s flexible use requirement and sensitive to both the existing and new architectural features.

  • visitor experience lighting design by Michael Grubb Studio
  • visitor experience lighting design by Michael Grubb Studio
  • visitor experience lighting design by Michael Grubb Studio


London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is renowned for its expansive collections of art and design works, spanning over 5,000 years of human creativity. The Museum is currently undergoing an ambitious programme of development to transform the attraction – with new galleries and visitor facilities. The rejuvenation will also restore the beauty of the original building.

In 2017, the Museum expanded its photographic holdings, through the acquisition of the Royal Photographic Society Collection. The V&A pledged to develop a world-class centre for photography at its South Kensington location, enabling visitors to explore the medium of photography and ‘expect the unexpected’.


Lighting Design Elevates Visitor Experience

Photography Centre at V&A has multiple galleries where each tells their own story and holds specific collection. Gallery 95 asks for appropriate lighting to operate the Camera Obscura. Careful lighting consideration ensures there is no light spill onto the adjacent light sensitive Gallery 94 tapestries and Gallery 95 artefacts.

Next, Galleries 96 and 97 require a more traditional gallery track and spotlighting. The lighting here also supports flexibility for event use and has versatility for curated changes of showcased works.

Then comes Gallery 98 — the heart of all photography Galleries in the centre. The space has a library and staff working spaces, with a central mezzanine. The lighting design for this particular room combines sensitive low levels of functional lighting with decorative and architectural lighting.

Finally, Gallery 99 showcases digital and projected artwork and therefore, needs very low levels of lighting. Also, the lighting scheme offers flexibility and accommodates to future changes if required. When it comes to visitor experiences, it is crucial to provide functional lighting that can simultaneously visually relate to the other galleries in the project.


  • V&A Photography Centre Installation Michael Grubb Studio
  • lighting design by Michael Grubb Studio for V&A Photography Centre London


The Design

The lighting scheme is carefully developed to enhance the visitor experience of engaging visually with the displayed artefacts, photography, books and artworks. This is achieved through expert curation of the best possible lighting solutions. Furthermore, the lighting design for this visitor experience highlights key building features — the beautifully renovated ceilings and cornices. Overall, the lighting amplifies the amazing setting of the museum and creates a strong sense of presence while delivering an encompassing experience for visitors.

There were some limitations to the integration of lighting technology due to the original heritage features including the cornices and decorative ceilings. This required the Michael Grubb team to coordinate extensively with the design team, construction team, client and preservation officers. At last, the team conducted this expertly, resolving all issues and ensuring the final lighting scheme did not disrupt the original architecture, but delivered all required aspects.


“After 150 years of championing photography, the V&A finally has a space worthy of its collection.”

Marta Weiss, Senior Curator of Photography Centre at the V&A


“It was wonderful to work with the team at V&A again after several previous partnerships. It’s so rewarding to see how our lighting designs support and enhance the redevelopment of the museum, transforming it into an even more mesmerising space.

“Our expertise in heritage sites provided us with great insights and our solid working relationship with the client and design teams meant we all worked in harmony to deliver this brief and support the V&As mission of delighting and inspiring visitors.”

Matt Waugh, Associate of Michael Grubb Studio





This project is featured in the articles below

Dezeen  |  Design Insider  |  Architect’s Journal  |  Wallpaper*  |  British Journal of Photography  |  Architecture Today  |  Architectural Record  |  STIRworld  |  Quinn  |  Interior Contracting & Design Spec  |  Apollo  |  The Times  |  The Conversation  |  The Art Newspaper  |  Attractions Management  |  CLADmag  |  Financial Times  |  Building Design.




Victoria and Albert Museum


Quinn, Lowe & Oliver (Electrical), Currie Brown (Costs), Pavlis (Library)


Purcell (Base Build & Lead Architects + Heritage Consultant), Gibson Thornley Architects (Fit-out)

Project Management

Avison Young


Harley Haddow (Structural and M&E)


London, UK


Best Public Interior 2023 — World Architecture Festival