Our Time on Earth

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Our Time on Earth, Barbican Centre, Installation image

Launching on 5 May 2022 at the Barbican Centre, Our Time on Earth is a major international exhibition featuring 18 immersive, interactive installations and digital works that use the power of global creativity to positively transform the conversation around the climate emergency.

  • Lighting Design: Speirs Major
  • Photography: Mark Allan Photography and Tim P. Whitby

The Lighting of 'Our Time on Earth'

Calling for a mindset shift through the exploration of art, design and technology, the exhibition invites people to imagine a world in which both people and the planet can flourish. Fundamental to the experience of the exhibition, the lighting by Speirs Major is designed to support open-minded exploration and full engagement with the artworks while driving innovation in sustainable ways of working for touring exhibitions.

Mindful of the lit image, embodied energy and energy in use for the exhibition, Speirs Major considered light and dark as essential factors in the visitor experience of the galleries, alongside a holistic approach to the choice of light sources and equipment. Artificial light is kept to a minimum, while light trespass is controlled from area to area, particularly adjacent to digital displays.

With most of the pieces located in discrete 'pocket' spaces created within the Curve Gallery, Speirs Major worked with an overarching concept of a gradient of light across the journey through the exhibition, adding emphasis at transitions, entrances and exits to aid orientation. Rather than adding extra light, tonal shifts in the background wall colours allow the intensity and level of contrast to be dialled up (or down) as appropriate to the artwork while using minimal energy.

Speirs Major Partner, Clementine Fletcher Smith explains:

"Having created a comprehensive conceptual basis for the exhibition's lighting, the development of the design evolved in a flexible yet vigilant way. We worked to create the best possible experience of the artworks as details about the new pieces emerged while continually checking and calculating the embodied carbon and lifetime environmental impact, refining, dimming, and removing unnecessary lighting.

"In terms of equipment, we used the existing track system for the vast majority of the lighting and were also able to locate and re-use a selection of spotlights and accessories from a previous exhibition. For the additional equipment we needed, we explored manufacturers who could offer efficient, sustainable and adaptable products designed with a full 360-degree life cycle, that would also be sufficiently robust and easy to pack for touring. Measured against these criteria, we chose Stoane Lighting as the primary manufacturer for the project."

Stoane Lighting’s Business Development Manager, Roger Sexton elaborates:

“For this project it was important for us to consider two aspects of a luminaire’s environmental impact. Firstly, the initial embodied carbon: this will involve issues such as what materials are used, if there is recycled content, where do the materials come from, and what energy do they use in production. Secondly, a product’s circularity: keeping the initial embodied carbon ‘working’ is key and this will involve design for durability and repairability.

CIBSE last year published guides to assessing both of these criteria: TM65 Embodied Carbon in Building Services: A Calculation Methodology and TM66 Creating a Circular Economy in the Lighting Industry. We have adopted both and have started to publish results on our website.

For Our Time on Earth, we carried out TM65 assessments on the individual luminaires specified and uniquely on the lighting system as a whole, working with eldoLED on the drivers involved. We also carried out TM66 analysis, with each luminaire achieving Excellent Circularity performance. “

Our Time on Earth is running from 5/5/2022 until 29/8/2022 at the Barbican Centre, London.