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Aberfoyle Art Gallery is a privately owned art gallery and exhibition venue, situated in the lush Honde Valley in Zimbabwe. The intent was to have a modern, multifunctional venue with lighting to suit its needs.

In 2018 Architectural Planning Studio (APS) were commissioned by Nyangani Renewable Resources to design an Art Gallery on the grounds of Aberfoyle Lodge, Hauna, in the scenic Honde Valley of Zimbabwe. The first thing that the architects considered was the uniqueness of the site: nestled within a working tea estate, partially surrounded by temperate rainforest, it was paramount that the gallery be unique, and respond to its particular context. Several sites were considered, and eventually one was selected for its incredible views, and its proximity to the existing lodge. 

To take full advantage of the views, APS oriented the gallery north west towards the golf course, tea terraces, and distant mountains.

The gallery brief was to be flexible enough to accommodate a variety of art (including pictures and sculptures of different sizes), and should be secure enough for high value works, all within a climate-controlled environment that would cater to sensitive works.

The architects envisaged the gallery interior as a celebration of light and space, allowing the works of art to be showcased to their best advantage. Internally the curved roof segments are layered, and clerestory windows allow ambient light to flood the gallery space. Large concertina doors open up to a cantilevered balcony which reaches out toward the pond, where sunlight and panoramic views allow contrasting relief from the shaded rainforest. 

Landscaping compliments the gallery building with verdant planting and carefully maintained tree species, drawing attention to the deck and the reflection pond.

Programmatically, APS designed the building with flexible and multifunctional spaces in mind, so that it could be used both as an Art Gallery as well as a Conference Centre or Wedding Venue for up to 100 people. To this end a catering kitchen was incorporated in the layout, and storage rooms were designed as multi-use meeting/presentation rooms. Mechanical and electrical services are hidden within the building’s basement and routed invisibly up large cavity walls to the necessary rooms.

Movable screens and partitions allow artwork to be moved and stored, to either make space for a large open space, or to compartmentalise smaller spaces.

The pallet of materials is kept raw and honest, showcasing split face concrete blocks, and timber off-shutter concrete walls, with polished teak floors, skirtings, and architraves. Simple white painted gallery walls allow the interior to showcase the artwork to its best effect.

Dampening acoustic reverberation within the main hall was achieved through a custom designed ceiling, complete with softwood timber panels, hessian overlay and sound/heat absorbing insulation above.

Lead architect, Geoff Fox, notes that while there was no specific lighting brief for the project, the design brief centred around doing whatever necessary to be able to exhibit high value artwork in a climate controlled environment. “As architects, we suggested an emphasis on multi-functionality and adaptability to enhance the building’s use. For this reason, the main gallery space was to be lit with track lights, which, as much as possible, did not detract from the unique vaulted/arched ceiling and voluminous space, and which at the same time emphasised the ceiling at night with uplighting,” he says.

Fox notes that the directional spots on the track lighting were chosen for flexibility and purpose lighting of artworks/sculptures. “The purpose of the uplighting on the track lighting was to accentuate the roof/ceiling, and to provide an ambient atmosphere for parties and weddings. Furthermore, all lighting in the main gallery is dimmable, and each track can be switched on or off and dimmed individually.” Check Point Consulting worked with Regent Lighting Solutions on a modular track lighting system that boasts appeal and flexibility. The A-Line lighting system was the perfect solution as this system incorporated the galley spotlights to highlight artwork along with track- mounted linears providing general lighting within the main gallery. All of these elements are individually controlled by the intelligent daliTECH Omega, offering the best lighting levels for any event.

The passages also house suspended track lighting allowing for a future permanent exhibition to be housed on these walls, while spot lights were also used to emphasise the pond below the gallery.

The ambient lighting for the veranda was supposed to be and encourage spill out-gatherings around food and drinks, without obstructing from the main feature – the panoramic views. “The pendants, complete with low watt warm light bulbs were a good idea on paper, however, we had to work with Regent Lighting Solutions to develop a bespoke solution that provided rigidity to the hanging elements and allowed them to be fixed against the wind, and each unique angle, depending on the curve of the I-beam support,” he explains. The pendants feature a custom adjustable mounting bracket which allows the pendants to suspend parallel to one another, with a dimmable carbon filament-style LED lamp creating the perfect atmosphere to relax and take in the view of the surrounding nature.

Fox believes that the lighting was critical to the success of the project. “By being able to adapt to any external or internal influence – as well as assisting with multifunctional events such as conferences, entertainment functions, exhibitions and art workshops, the role the lighting plays in the finished project cannot be understated.”

The Gallery was officially opened in November 2021, with the inaugural exhibition of The Stars are Bright, a collection of important art from the Cyrene Mission School, Bulawayo (competed between 1940-1947), by more than 40 resident artists, under the tutelage of Canon Ned Paterson.

PROJECT TEAM:

Architects: Architectural Planning Studio

Architectural team: Geoff Fox, Graham Cochrane and Caspar Kumire

Electrical engineers: Check Point

Mechanical and electrical engineers: QED

Contractors: Hydro Power Contractors

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