The Halo Effect
The Chapel’s previous lighting system
relied on halogen spotlights and floodlights, which emit heat that could damage the artwork. These bulbs also need
to be replaced more often than LEDs,
which last up to 25 times longer. Changing the halogen lights required someone
to climb onto scaffolding or a lift, which
put workers dangerously close to the
“Maintenance was a pain, so the focus
of the project was on reducing that difficulty, reducing the risk of damage to the
frescoes and making the Chapel brighter,”
Mr. Boulouednine says.
Put to the Test
There was no room for error once installation began, so the
project team planned ahead for an extra phase of testing.
“One of our biggest challenges was establishing trust in the
technology,” Mr. Boulouednine says.
To establish that trust, a Vatican Museums laboratory
exposed 16 representative pigment samples to high-intensity
light inside a climate chamber for one year. In parallel, the
University of Pannonia, a project partner based in Veszprém,
Hungary, performed similar testing to make sure LEDs wouldn’t
make colors fade or change.
“All of these experiments proved scientifically that the new LED
illumination would not cause any harm,” Mr. Boulouednine says.
The Night Shift
From the start, the Vatican made it clear that keeping one of
the world’s most visited religious sites open to the public during
installation was a project requirement.
“Imagine you’ve booked a trip to Rome months ago, and
when you arrive, someone tells you the Chapel is closed for
maintenance,” Mr. Boulouednine says.
To accommodate the Chapel’s steady stream of 6 million visitors
each year, Mr. Boulouednine’s team installed the LED system only
in the evening, when the Chapel was closed. However, crews only
worked from 6 to 11 p.m.—rather than the entire night—because
many of the supporting team members, such as security guards and
scaffold builders, also had day jobs, Mr. Boulouednine says.