St Pierre Cathedral


A large lighting project involving elaborate architecture, that of St Pierre Cathedral. The objectives, i.e. not operating on the walls of historic buildings, the formal respect of the spaces and the control of consumption are achieved through a series of well-calibrated lighting choices, with different lighting scenarios




Geneva – Swiss


Ruffieux-Chehab Architects

The cathedral stands in the high part of the old city. The prominent façade, with its colonnade and two massive bell towers overlooks a small square. The body of the building is closed off on two sides among tiny streets that, at varying slopes, follow the contour lines of the hill. The apse complex overlooks terracing that faces the valley. The building is visible from the lake and, from the low part of the city it becomes a recognisable point from which to get one's bearings and contributes to the vertical appearance of the city. 
The illumination values of the city are controlled, with an almost complete absence of illuminated overhanging signage and restrained advertising presence. Consequently this results in a measured nocturnal appearance, well integrated into the natural landscape of the lake and mountains.  
At night the cathedral should be part of the general landscape, carefully integrated into its context, and should also maintain the strong image and predominant role it plays during daylight hours. We consider it necessary:
- not to tamper with the walls of the historical buildings, not to proceed with installations, not to install any kinds of fixtures and equipment, and not to act in any irreversible way on the structure of the ancient buildings. 
- to solemnly respect the spaces, volumes and architectural decoration by the choice and positioning of fixtures that are not visibly invasive but rather, small and built into the architecture. 
- to control consumption, energy savings, good quality of light, colour rendition, and pleasantness of viewing and living at night. 
The use of rooftops adjacent to the building allow us not to invade the building itself with fixtures, but to create homogeneous lighting with constant illumination values and controlled form and cast shadows, and to reproduce the appearance of the light at full moon. 
Modern technologies allow the installation of fixtures that produce dynamic and coloured light for festivities, special occasions and particular ceremonies.  
The interior of the church is austere, stark and characterized by the repetition of columns, by stone, and by archaeological finds laid onto the perimeter walls, as well as by a wooden pulpit integrated into a column and accessed via a spiral staircase.  Daylight enters through a series of high windows embellished with polychrome stained-glass that produce diffused, soft, homogeneous, naturally dynamic and chromatic lighting according to the sun's angle throughout the day. 
The new lighting project maintains and respects the architectural appearance and atmosphere of the spaces. 
Currently, large circular iron chandeliers with naked, omni-directional light bulbs descend halfway down to the floor, both in the central and lateral naves. This type of chandelier is ancient and used to hold candles or glass cruets with oil, a practice that is maintained even today ( Hagia Sofia and the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul ).  
We propose maintaining the current fixtures in St. Pierre, and are considering the hypothesis of substituting the current incandescent lamps with more modern ones, equipped with electronic devices to control their intensity and allow the regulation of luminous flux to the values required for any occasion - visits, ceremonies, concerts, conferences or festivities. This solution also avoids adding any installations. 
Fixtures, hidden from sight and motorized for access, can be installed on the high cornices in order to produce and increment the varying scenarios required. 
The design for the accent lighting of the tomb stones and of the wooden pulpit is also addressed by the project, as is the lighting of the chapel to the side of the high alter. 
The Maccabean Chapel, lateral to the entrance, contains a chandelier that appears to be from the Art Deco period and is well integrated into the architectural and decorative context of the environment: it can be maintained by substituting the current light bulbs with more efficient and modern ones. The current metal floor lamps would become completely superfluous and could be removed. 
The predisposition for sound and light shows will have to be studied specifically in collaboration with specialized designers in the field, to whom the creation and management of such events is entrusted.