Bringing Light and Life to Art

The Watt Institution’s  McLean Museum and Art Gallery in Greenock, Scotland has reopened following a three-year £2m refurbishment using Kalwall® translucent cladding at its heart. Part of the Watt Library, the Museum is #3 on Tripadvisor’s things to see in the area.

Much of the refurbishment hinged around the problem of the original large glass roof over the atrium. There has always been an issue between allowing direct light into museum spaces to view objects in a natural environment. This is because of the associated degradation and damage caused by solar radiation and ultraviolet lights on artefacts such as paint, varnishes, wood, textiles, pigments and dyes. Many museums will often limit the annual exposure to daylight by rotating displays.

At this museum, the glass roof had been covered with layers of black paint to block out the daylight to reduce damage. This, however, made for a dark and depressing space. Consequently, when Collective Architecture was appointed to refurbish the building, Kalwall was specified to replace the existing glass running the length of the central atrium. Working with Inverclyde Council and Historic Environment Scotland, this translucent cladding was specifically chosen for its ability to transmit diffused daylight deep into the space below. Its unique structure also deflects harmful UV-A and UV-B rays for the lifetime of the product, unlike coatings used on other solutions which gradually wear away. The lightweight nature of Kalwall also meant the existing supporting structures could be used, while additional insulation was also incorporated to achieve a U-value of 0.57W/m2K.

Kalwall has the added advantage of transmitting the full spectrum of visible light for perfect colour rendition and excellent visual clarity. As one Tripadvisor comment puts it, “The new glass {Kalwall} ceiling has made the atmosphere lighter and the exhibits appear brighter now, helping the visitor to enjoy the collections.”

Kalwall is a popular choice for projects where performance, long life cycle and low maintenance are required, coupled with an aesthetic finish. It offers the highest protection in terms of wind-borne debris and resistance to impact, abrasion and point load and is also very secure, making it popular for projects such as this where valuable artefacts are on display.

Kalwall’s exterior face is colour stable, being formulated with a UV resistant self-cleaning resin. This means that normal rainfall helps to keep the surface free of dust and dirt, while at the same time retaining its original colour during the weathering process.


Photo: John Sinclair