Saint Mary’s Church

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Saint Mary’s Church

LONDON, UK, 2017

The church of St Mary’s in Barnes, south-west London celebrates it’s 800 year anniversary in 2018. The church was completely destroyed by fire in an arson attack in 1978. The job of rebuilding the church was given to the architect Ted Cullinan. On the basis that the church had already been added to since the 12th century, the architect took the bold approach of a modern design, with minimal supporting structure but respecting the mediaeval spirit central the original architecture.

Completed in 1984, the church has become a central hub for the local community. It is much more than a place of worship – concerts are held there, formal gala balls, fashion shows, art exhibitions and many more uses. Much in the way that major architects of the past such as Lloyd-Wright, Lutyens and others would design everything including furniture and lighting, Cullinan Studio designed special glass pendants with tungsten lamps along with lecterns, pews and all other components.

The brief to Light Bureau concerned issues of under-illumination – the congregation couldn’t read at night. Also discomfort glare from old floodlights, and constant failings and maintenance issues from Cullinan’s pendants. Also, architectural features which were unlit, so the overall impression was very bland. Light Bureau’s approach was to conserve key features of the church, respecting that the pendant fittings were now part of the historic components of Cullinan’s design. Beyond re-purposing these and making them work better, we wanted the rest of the new lighting to disappear and not interfere with the architecture. Keeping the glass platters and suspension system, we had bespoke retro-fit pendant kits made. At the front of the church, we created versions that gave direct downlight as well as uplight. We integrated discrete LED heads into the diamond-shaped trusses to provide a significant amount of separately controllable light to the congregation below. The versatility required of the lighting to support all the different functions that the church provides are all delivered and the result exceeds the client’s expectations.

Photography: Álvaro Valdecantos