While The Lightbox is closed to the public and our team are working remotely, we've found ourselves missing being in our building quite a lot. Here, Director Marilyn Scott brings a new series of blogs dedicated to The Lightbox and its rich history.

Delve into the story behind The Lightbox's architecture, before continuing.

When the design process for the new Lightbox building got underway, one of the core principles was that wherever we could feature artist’s work as part of the building, we would try to realise this. It was going to be a building largely dedicated to art (and also, of course, local heritage) so it seemed highly appropriate that some of the permanent features would be artist-designed and made.

We examined the architects' plans and working with Marks Barfield, we quickly identified features which would benefit from creative input. The first and probably the most striking was the pattern of the gold and silver tiles on two sides of the building. We worked with a company called Greyworld who, inspired by the proximity to the canal and the wildlife living in and around, selected a colour palette ranging from deep gold to pale silver - simulating fish scales. The scales wrap around the main façade and give the building its wonderful glow in the sunshine.

Tiles from the Canal © JP Bland

Below the tiles, a long window was planned so visitors inside would always be able to see the world outside and those driving down Victoria Way would be able to glimpse a tantalising view inside the gallery when passing. We were keen to think of the building at night-time as well as during the day, so a light installation was proposed. We worked with light artist, Peter Freeman, who came up with the amazing idea of using a combination of tiny changing coloured lights - visible at night time, combined with dichroic glass which reflects different colours into the building in the day. This has become such a feature of the building that I think we now take the wonderful effects for granted, including the fact that every time someone walks into the building the light sequence changes - a subtle but effective design.

The Lightbox DNA and light installation © Peter Cook

We were always aware that for security reasons, our courtyard garden would need to be gated. However, there was no reason to say that these gates couldn't be a welcoming beginning of the artistic journey into The Lightbox building. A local artist, Clare Robertson, designed wonderful gates influenced by the natural forms she found on the canal-side and these were produced in wrought iron by local foundry Burvills.

In the garden and throughout the building, we wanted lots of lovely benches and so we found a craftsman from Sussex, Alun Heslop, who produced the most elegantly shaped oak benches that still grace the building and garden today.

To continue the fishing theme, local artist Mike Savage produced metal fish formed from the left-over tiles from the façade. These were placed around the garden, between the planting, and they were all-time bestsellers when our Shop opened in 2007.

Above the stairwell hangs ‘Wave’ which was the marvellous result of our failed attempt to be in the Guinness Book of Records. To draw attention to the new museum and gallery and capture the public’s imagination, we launched an attempt to collect the most handprints in the world. We knew it was highly unlikely we could beat the record, which was several hundreds of thousands, but it made a good story and gave us something to focus on when we went to local fetes and fairs to advertise that a new museum was coming to Woking. We asked for people to give their handprints in coloured paint and promised they could see them when the museum finally opened.

Of course, we had not given too much thought to how this might be achieved, being far more focused on beating the record. When the project ended, we were left with several thousand coloured handprints and a pledge to display them in the building. Two artists, Danny Greany and Malcolm Taylor, accepted a commission to create an installation which involved the cutting and laminating all the handprints, and assembling them on a wire frame.

The clever thing about their design was that as it hangs in the air flow from the window vents, the hands do continually move and wave. To this day, 'Wave' is one of the most loved and remarked-upon pieces in the building and has only ever been moved once, when we staged a Leonardo da Vinci exhibition and it was replaced by one of Leonardo’s giant flying constructions.

For weekly updates from our Director, Marilyn Scott, browse our blog.