concrete, it produces a series of contrasting effects: opaqueness and
transparency, light and shade, unfinished and sophisticated, rough and
smooth.’ In the interpretation area, where the emblematic fragments of
the cave are suspended, we have used a generous level of illumination
afforded by mimicking natural light from crevice-like slits in the roof that
allow the visitor a detailed reading of the paintings. Some will view this
as more scientific, others will deem it closer to an art gallery. In order to
conjure a closer representation of the experience of exploring the actual
caves, the facsimiles are made using a kind of cement that mimics the
original stone. Design team members of 8’ 18”, environmental engineer
Alto Ingénierie and sound designer Daniel Commin have together
recreated the darkness, damp and drama revealed nearly 80 years ago.
The effect of the Palaeolithic lighting is reproduced using replica deer
fat lamps that contain 2W LED lamps with diffusers and variable beams.
These can be dimmed down to almost zero and made to ‘flutter’ like
flames. They are perched in crevices or on the floor of the cave, as the
archaeology shows they would have been thousands of years ago.
The level of illumination in the cave is around five lux on the ground
and 30 to 50 lux on the paintings, preserving the ‘penumbra’ for a more
immersive and mysterious experience. In the event of an emergency,
luminaires concealed in the walls can be raised close to 100 lux. Only
three or four groups of up to 30 are allowed through at any one time.
A combination of directional LED lights and fluorescent tube lines
enables us to play with the atmosphere, punctuating the diffused, soft
light with contrast. The lighting is dynamic, and appears to follow the
small groups of visitors, turning off as they leave an area so that only the
region around them is illuminated. In reality, it is triggered by the guide
thanks to a magnetic badge and a sensor concealed in the details of the
concrete wall of the facsimile.
Thus, visitors are able to interpret the cave art but can still appreciate
what it might have been like either to inhabit or to discover the caves.
Meanwhile, efforts continue to preserve and protect the irreplaceable
treasure that is the original Lascaux.
Above and left: in the
interpretation area, the ambient
illumination is 100 lux while
the displays are illuminated to
200-300 lux. In Casson Mann’s
visualisation, guides use
handheld torches to spotlight
features of the art