The Grande Galerie de l'Evolution, or Grand Evolution gallery, a natural history museum that is part of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, recently completed work to mark the 20th anniversary of its original renovation. Renowned architects Paul Chemetov and Borja Huidobro, in conjunction with scenographer and film-maker René Allio, initially gave life to this venue under a majestic 1 000m2 glass roof, housing over 7 000 species.
Hundreds of visitors, who come to learn more about the evolution of species and biological diversity, are now welcomed every day by five gigantic Airstar lighting balloons, from the Pendulair range, installed in the vast entrance hall.
With different shapes and heights, the balloons appear to be floating in the air. On top of their obvious aesthetic aspect, they have proved to be the perfect answer to various challenges, including lighting, space filling and signage: To guarantee perfect positioning, they are fastened by metallic non-rotating slings, and help to guide visitors inside.
Signage design was handled by graphic designer company Change is good while the balloons in the main hall were installed by Airstar European Network (AEN) in collaboration with the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle technical team. A further six balloons hang from the ceiling above the large historical staircase inside.
Installed in accordance with the criteria listed by project management, the Pendulair balloons (1x160cm, 2x200cm, 2x250cm and 1x300cm) meet the exacting specifications which forbid alteration to the existing architectural structure: All the lighting balloons are linked to the ceiling apertures by two cables; one powering the balloon ventilation, the other controlling lighting.
The project managers sought an innovative solution to exploit the volumes of the entrance hall. The graphic designers from Change is good were looking for sharp and bright lighting: Airstar fitted its balloons with low consumption compact fluorescent lamps (40 W, 6400 K) managed by a time switch. The result is a uniform lighting ambience which attracts attention from the outside, thanks to an efficient and diffuse light.
Agnès Chemetoff, from architects Paul Chemetov, explains: "The purpose of these lighting balloons was to refresh the signage in the entrance hall while respecting the historical dimension of the building. Paul Chemetov, had the idea to use them to light the stairs."
The graphic designers from Change is good decided to use similar balloons for the entrance hall signage, to ensure continuity while capitalising on the festive aspect of the 20 year celebration.
The success of Airstar lighting balloons in architectural space lighting comes from their luminosity, the volume of their shapes, and their flexibility which allows for a building structure to remain untouched. They are also less expensive than other solutions.
Picture credits: David Mohen