The 900-year-old Norwich Cathedral is justly famous for its architecture, and remains an important seat of worship and part of the local community. We have created a new, sustainable, interior lighting system to support the liturgy and provide flexibility for various cultural activities and tourism, while reducing the energy load. Our sensitive yet rigorous approach has delivered a richly nuanced scheme that has been embraced by the clergy and the local community, who use it daily to adapt the spaces to their needs.

Our scope included re-lighting all the interior areas of the Cathedral, including six chapels, two ancillary rooms and the historic library.

Consideration for the spiritual aspects of the building forms the foundation of our approach. A flexible background level of light facilitates everyday activities, layered with highlights that provide focus on the key liturgical elements and objects of religious and cultural significance. At each entrance and change of level, carefully managed light levels ensure easy access and improved safety for people of all abilities. A further layer details the infrastructure required for concerts and community events.

The final layer of electric light subtly expresses the soaring architectural volumes, preserving the spirit of the Cathedral as it has been enjoyed for centuries. Soft uplighting highlights the sculptural forms of the ceilings and important features, including the historically significant ornate carved bosses at the intersections of the ribs. We were successful in our petition to have previously installed guarding at the Triforium level removed, allowing the pure simplicity of the architecture to be re-envisaged.

To deliver the many layers of light with minimal impact to the building fabric, we designed a series of simple, multi-purpose details, honed through numerous tests and mock-ups. A bespoke modular track system sits within the fluted profile of the columns, providing the flexibility to locate and direct light where needed while limiting the number of physical connections, minimising damage to the stonework. Mounted on the eastern face of the columns, the tracks are completely hidden from view in the primary viewing positions. For the Quire, we created a bespoke stall-mounted luminaire: a modern interpretation of a candle, it improves conditions for reading music while creating a soft sparkle reminiscent of a flame.

Each lighting effect is individually controlled and dimmable from 0% to 100% brightness. This fine level of control enables the client to shift the focus of worship around the building, creating different atmospheres that suit the many uses of the various spaces. The all-LED design has generated significant savings in energy and maintenance in comparison to the previous tungsten-halogen scheme. It has also reduced UV emissions, helping to protect and preserve the sensitive painted medieval artworks and artefacts.

An immensely complex undertaking, it was necessary to deliver the project in phases that allowed the Cathedral to remain operational at all times. As well as lighting, we undertook the rationalisation and replacement of the electrical infrastructure, including hand-painting the new cabling in a trompe l’oeil effect, to blend it into the building fabric.

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