In December of last year, the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine, designed by Santiago Calatrava, opened to the public at the re-envisioned World Trade Center site in New York City. While the building appears monolithic in the daytime, it transforms into a glowing beacon at night. This effect was meticulously designed and executed by the lighting team at DLR Group.
DLR Group, led by Tom Gallagher, installed LED modules within the thermal envelope of the dome, sandwiched between thin sheets of Pentelic marble. These LEDs, mounted on the structure, project warm illumination that reduces shadowing and creates an even glow on the white surface of the thermal envelope.
The lighting team had two main goals in mind when designing the interior lighting of the church. First, they aimed to create a contemplative space for worship and reflection. Second, they wanted to achieve the perfect balance of illumination between the ambient room lighting and the focused beams on the rich iconography that covers the surfaces.
To achieve a seamless and invisible lighting effect, DLR Group concealed interior fixtures within architectural elements such as the oculus, structural ribs, pendentives, stone arches, and the cornice at the base of the dome. The lighting fixtures were also mock-uped at full scale to ensure the desired effect and to match color temperatures between different lighting products.
In addition, the lighting team worked in harmony with nature’s own special effects. They carefully considered the changing quality of daylight and the shifting sky conditions throughout the day, allowing these natural elements to enhance the dynamism of the sacred space both inside and out.
The lighting design of the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church exemplifies the importance of thoughtful illumination in creating an awe-inspiring and contemplative architectural space.
– ALAN KARCHMER / OTTO