A new lighting design for the St-James United Church in Montreal has accentuated a once forgotten façade and helped the church adapt to its vibrant new setting.
Built between 1887 and 1889, the St-James United Church in Montreal is a designated national historic site of Canada. Despite its architectural significance, however, the church had for decades been partially hidden: commercial buildings were built in front of its façade in 1927.
An $8 million restoration in 2005 demolished part of these storefronts, revealing the "lost" façade. To emphasize this rediscovered beauty and modernize the structure, the church turned to lighting designers CS Design.
"They wanted to highlight the architectural heritage of the building. It's extremely ornate, so we didn't want to light it face on, as that would flatten all the details. Our intention was to attack it obliquely, to frame it and bring out some of the contrast," said Conor Sampson, Principal at CS Design.
The church, however, had to also be integrated into the surrounding Quartier des Spectacles, Montreal's burgeoning entertainment district.
"The city wanted to include the church in its program of cultural events and performance venues. So it had to form part of the larger context, where everything is networked," Sampson said. This meant that control protocols and flexible, interactive fixtures were a necessity.
"Metal halide obviously wouldn't work, since we couldn't dim on or off. LED was the product of choice," Sampson said, explaining why Lumenpulse was chosen for the project. "We've had good experiences with Lumenpulse in the past, especially when it comes to support. Lumenpulse was the right fit," he said.
Working with conservation architect Paule Boutin, CS Design chose Lumenfacade fixtures to graze the sides of the building, accentuating textures and enhancing the juxtaposition between the church and its urban surroundings. To preserve the heritage stone, the firm chose not to attach the fixtures directly to the church, installing them instead on brackets.
To illuminate the façade, the firm opted for Lumenbeam Largeluminaires, which were installed on buildings flanking the church. The 3000K color temperature brings out the warmth in the stone, giving the church a friendly, inviting air, without drawing attention to the lighting design.
"We wanted to light the church without showing the equipment. The idea was to really hide it, so that it felt like the building was just radiating light by itself," Sampson said.
Lighting stained glass windows
This self-radiating principle extended to the church's large stained glass windows, which in the past had proven difficult to light. CS Design opted for a backlighting technique - using Lumenfaçade Interior luminaires to light automated Lutron screens, which drop behind the windows when needed.
"Instead of lighting the windows directly, we light the screens, which are two of the largest Lutron screens in North America. The light then comes back out through the windows evenly," Sampson said.
The end result has brought the church to life at night, spotlighting its rediscovered heritage façade, while managing to give it a sense of place amid the modern, urban environment.
"The activity within the church is now reflected on the outside plaza and the façade, which really ties it into its surroundings," Sampson said.
"It offers a feeling of transparency, to both the street and what's going on inside."
6 x Lumenfacade (4', 3000K, 10X60)
2 x Lumenfacade Interior (2', 3000K, 10X60)
8 x Lumenfacade Interior (3', 3000K, 30X60)
4 x Lumenfacade Interior (3', 3000K, 10X60)
7 x Lumenfacade Interior (4', 3000K, 10X60)
6 x Lumenfacade Interior (4', 3000K, 30X60)
8 x Lumenbeam Small (3000K, 10°)
2 x Lumenbeam Medium RGB (10°)
2 x Lumenbeam Large RGB (10°)
2 x Lumenbeam Large RED (10°)
8 x Lumenbeam Large (3000K, 10°)
We’ve had good experiences with Lumenpulse in the past, especially when it comes to support. Lumenpulse was the right fit.Conor Sampson