MUSE — playful, joyful light


MUSE — playful, joyful light

Trento, Italy

MUSE – The Science Museum of Trento is one of the most innovative museums in Italy. Mixing scientific information and practical experimentation, it launched a new way of interacting with the public.

MUSE is entirely designed and created with the objectives of raising the standard of quality of life and promoting energy savings. Helvar was the chosen partner in this prestigious project, where an efficient lighting system was required to meet the stringent sustainability criteria, but also to play an integral part in the architectural concept.


The renowned architect Renzo Piano designed the building to integrate with the environment. With its jagged forms the building seems to reflect the nearby Dolomite mountains. Light and shadow, landmasses and empty spaces define the structure from the outside, giving it an easily recognisable appearance.


MUSE is a museum profoundly innovative in every aspect. It combines the traditional approach of a science museum with new ways of interacting. Visitors are invited to experience and learn about the evolution of man and his relationship with the environment through interactive exhibits, multimedia installations and various interdisciplinary workshops. Touch a glacier with your own hands. Follow the footprints of dinosaurs. Listen to the sounds of a rainforest as you walk through tropical foliage. The 6-storey exhibition overlooks a large open space called “Big Void”, which penetrates the entire height of the building, letting in natural light from the central skylight and side windows. In this unique vertical void, exhibition pieces appear to float in the air in ”zero gravity”.


Everything in the architecture and construction of the museum speaks of respect for nature and protecting its resources, plants, animals and energy. Renzo Piano has become known through the years for his way of designing environmentally intelligent buildings by focusing on two main aspects: the use of natural materials and renewable energy sources.

The construction techniques pursue environmental sustainability and energy savings by utilising solar panels, geothermal energy, temperature and light sensors, daylight harvesting and more. The used materials are of local origin. For the successful design, the building has earned a gold level LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).


“The human element, along with light, playfulness and joy, are the fundamental dimensions of this architecture”, says Renzo Piano. “In these rooms with alternating areas of light and shade, everyone is welcome. Architecture should be joyous – it must tenaciously cultivate the idea that the meeting places of culture and civilization are meeting places of shared joy”, muses Piano.

The entire building was wired with Helvar DALI systems. The router units create information hubs for controlling the lighting and the motorised blinds. The lighting scenes can be programmed to fully utilise daylight as it shifts throughout the day, mixing in artificial lighting only as necessary.

One of the most important elements in minimising the operating costs and CO2 emissions is exploiting the natural resources. The ingenious architecture of the museum conveys natural light even into the innermost parts of the building, taking advantage of the extensive window surfaces and the large skylight in the central area. All levels of the building – even the lowest floors – receive sunlight, leaving only a few areas in shade.

The lighting system is left with the task of keeping the general lighting levels constant. With the help of MultiSensors, the intensity of the light fluctuations is adjusted continuously during the day depending on the amount of natural light available. Energy efficiency is also aided by the motorised blinds controlled by a Helvar sensor system that monitors temperatures and solar radiation.

The entire system is connected to the Building Management System, allowing centralised management and constant monitoring of energy consumption and functionality. Helvar lighting systems integrate seamlessly with all building automation systems in this high-tech museum. Technology is efficiently put to service for environmental protection and the well-being of the occupants.

Helvar’s experience from large, demanding projects allowed for making the best choices from a technical and programming point of view, but also for keeping on the schedule for the construction of the entire building.

"In these rooms with alternating areas of light and shade, everyone is welcome. Architecture should be joyous."


• The museum covers 7 floors of exhibition areas over a total area of 12,600 m2. • Time of realisation: 2003–2013 • Architects: Renzo Piano Building Workshop • Lighting design: Piero Castiglioni • General contractor: Colombo Construction, Lecco • Electrical contractor: Electromechanical Galli + Barzon & Dainese • Thermomechanical installations: Gelmini, Verona • Lighting management: Helvar DALI system with DIGIDIM router

TEXT Kirsi vanSol, Compleo & Gaia Damiani, Damiani Communication, PICTURES Alessandro Gadotti, Claudia Corrent, Lorenzo Longhi & ®Hufton+Crow

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