The Evolution Gallery at the Belgian Royal Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels is housed in the Janlet wing, built between 1898 and 1905 by architect Charles-Emile Janlet who integrated museographic fixings and a metallic structure to his project.
Originally exhibiting invertebrates, the gallery was later transformed into a painting studio where giant frescos were painted for the museum. The 80-meter long, 1200 square meter hall with its tiered display cases and giant skylights has been restored after having been abandoned for 40 years.
The exhibit traces life from its origins to the current day in « six and half chapters ». The six key evolution periods begin with the Cambrian era and continue on through the Devonian, Carboniferous, Jurassic and Eocene eras to the Present. The « half-chapter » concludes the story with a look at the Future, showing six fictive specimens which could exist 50 million years from now.
400 skeletons and specimens and 600 fossils are scattered throughout the exhibit’s 6 scenes. The transition from one period to another is resolved by a « temporal door » that jumps millions of years. To more fully explain important transformations during each period, interactive workshops are located along the visitor circuit. At its halfway point, the Satellite helps understand the mechanics of evolution. The architects conceived this area for experimentation and learning.
The lighting targeted two main objectives: focusing on the architecture and on the objects exhibited.
The vaulted ceiling is highlighted by asymmetrical projectors, equipped with H.I.D lamps, attached to the facade’s vertical metallic profiles to better integrate with the gallery’s « industrial » look.
In the Satellite area, two luminous cornices cover the vault in a soft, homogenous lighting.
Light from the skylights is filtered by a film applied directly to the glass; the giant glazed areas facing South are covered by screens which improve, diffuse and reduce the penetration of natural light.
General lighting and accent lighting on the objects are handled by four ceiling-mounted lines of tracks. These tracks, reachable from the floor or the mezzanine, mechanically support and feed adjustable projectors with a pared-down design. They are equipped with halogen or metal halide lamps and various accessories (diffusing filters, ellipsoidal lenses, barn doors …) to meet specific lighting needs. This discreet lighting with minimal visual impact down-plays technique to better validate the exhibits.
Projections on the vaulted ceiling use lighting fixtures with gobos attached to the sloped floor and are not accessible to the public. The projections are alternated in blurry sequences to avoid high electricity consumption, extend lamp longevity and not overheat the projectors.
The display cases which have been restored have a luminous top emitting a soft, diffused light. In display cases containing special presentations, accent lighting comes from adjustable projectors with halogen dichroïc lamps that complete the general mood.
For the specific needs of this project, a linear, fluorescent lighting fixture was developed. In a pure design with variable lengths, it can adjust and adapt to various types of exhibits in the gallery. Thanks to a grazed lighting, it brings out the discreet textures of the fossils displayed on adjustable « tablets ».
The Satellite zone has functional, modular lighting using articulated wall sconces which emphasize the « workshop » concept in that area.