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Light Research @ MMU

Illuminating Durham Cathedral

In February 2013, a new lighting scheme for Durham Castle and Cathedral, designed by Stainton Lighting Design Services of Thornaby (,  was switched on. This sophisticated deployment of illumination eloquently displays  how light can contribute to developing a sense of place and reveal the often unnoticed qualities of a building. Replacing the previous floodlighting scheme developed in the 1970s, flexible control systems enable light intensity to be moderated and though 240 LED lights have replaced only 53 lumieres,  they  have significantly reduced energy consumption.durham cathedral 1

Since these new lights are positioned closer to the buildings, highlights and shadows are more prominent. The two buildings are distinguished by different colour temperatures, the cathedral being illuminated with colder lighting than the castle. The iconic, massive, medieval cathedral dominates the city’s skyline. The low level lighting across the green situated in front of the cathedral is minimal, allowing the cathedral to stand out against a dark foreground.

Durham cathedral 2The separately spaced lumières reveal the distinctive architectural features of the building: the window tracery, the massive towers and the Norman towers, and the cathedral’s form is accentuated by the warmer light projected onto the buttresses to produces a sense of depth. These striking architectural elements cannot be ascertained as acutely during daylight. But at night, the focus of illumination acts to make them far more evident to the eye. The illumination also vibrantly highlights the texture of the stonework, with areas of rough and smooth surface. Though colour is muted, the shape, details and texture of the building is able to be fully appreciated.

Durham cathedral 3

January 20th, 2014 - 15:59pm

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