St Mary’s Parish Church in New Ross is a medieval structure dating back to 1210 and situated on a prominent rise overlooking the town. The nave of the church was knocked down in 1813 and the site is now occupied by the present church, which is still in use today, and stands alongside the ruins of the original structure. Architecturally, the buildings are a mix of Gothic and Norman influences and the site was an obvious choice when Wexford County Council sought to highlight a landmark feature in New Ross to represent the heritage of the town, and to promote tourism in the surrounding region.
Photometrics the key to best lighting design
The historical significance of the church and ruins, and the prominent elevated site they occupy overlooking the town, made for an ideal lighting project. However, it was also a challenging one in that it called for a customised lighting solution that would offer all the possibilities of modern-day lighting technology but one that was sensitive and sympathetic to the architecture and history of the site, and especially to the fact that it also incorporates a graveyard.
Having considered their options, Wexford County Council appointed Al Reid Electrical, who has extensive experience in this area, to carry out the project. They in turn partnered with Gay Byrne, Chairman of Lighting Association Ireland and Managing Director of Enlighten (part of the Fantasy Lights Group) to come up with the final solution that has won many accolades since it was switched on.
The design process began with an exhaustive site survey that included photography, extensive and very detailed measurements of the various building ruins, the use of old images and Google technologies. These were then used to create a 3D recreation of the whole site and one that took into account how the lighting would impact not just from the town, but also from the sea.
Once the 3D process was completed by means of density measuring devices this data was then computerised by way of an advanced programme to create the photometrics. These are essential in ensuring that the light levels achieved are correct and appropriate for the sensitivity of the site itself, and the surrounding area. It was not like lighting a football stadium to levels suitable for TV broadcast of field games, but rather delivering a solution that was in keeping with the fact that it houses centuries-old ruins and an operational church of unique architectural heritage.
The use of the photometrics was essential in devising and indeed visually demonstrating (see images, right) the different light levels required for the various buildings on the site, and to test and visualise the different optics that were required. They also facilitated visualisation of the varying effects that can be achieved by setting the fittings at different angles and mounting positions. For instance, some of the façade fittings are mounted on poles.
The light fittings chosen were high-quality Griven units incorporating RGBW technology. In addition to an RGB chip, they also feature an individual white light chip which is the only way to achieve pure white. This was essential in delivering the final desired effect. Griven is one of the market-leading manufacturers in the architectural lighting sector, featuring a comprehensive catalogue of proven quality, high reliability and fully weather-proofed lighting fixtures that offer innovative and alternative colour-changing solutions. A mix of different Griven luminaires were used on the project.
The overall lighting solution is controlled by a DMX management system that can be accessed and operated from a computer through to an ipad and mobile telephone. This role is delivered off site by Al Reid Electrical but, for the most part, the colour-changing is pre-programmed to coincide with various dates, festivals, events, national holidays, etc.
That the final solution provided is perfect and fit-for-purpose is evident for all to see. However, the importance of the detailed site survey, research and accumulation of all manner of data to create the 3D imagery which in turn leads to the computerised photometrics cannot be overstated.