One of Montreal’s leading architectural lighting designer creates a new landmark for the city’s Quartier des Spectacles Church of St. John the Evangelist is an important part of life in Montreal for a tripartite of reasons and Lightemotion has exemplified this with a stunning design for the external illumination of the building that changes with the different uses of the church. Francois Roupinian, founder of Lightemotion, explains: “The church is used as a place of religious worship, a mission and also a venue for concerts and so we felt we should reflect and respect the three different roles within the lighting design. It also sits at the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles and so we wanted to bring attention to this historic building, located amidst the city’s wealth of cultural offerings.”
Having previously illuminated Montreal’s Museum of Contemporary Art and the Place des Arts, both neighbours of the church, Roupinian and his Lightemotion team understood the challenge of getting the church noticed within the Quartier. However, they also understood that while it is a concert venue at times, the church also holds regular religious services and caters as a mission to the city’s homeless. How to create drama but ensure respect was the key to the design. The answer is an external illumination that can be modified depending upon the type of event being held at the building dubbed the Red Roofed Church. During religious services and mission work the church’s stone façade and red roof are lit in soft white light. However, when a concert is underway the stained glass windows and main doors are also highlighted with sharp bright light – including a red, in the case of the doorway – creating a much more dramatic presence for the church.
Lightemotion uses LED fixtures and metal halide light sources to create all effects. The nature of the historic building meant that no fixtures could be mounted directly onto the church; instead the roof and spire are lit via metal halide lamps located on an adjacent building; the stonework is illuminated with floor mounted LEDs; the windows, from an existing internal lighting truss; while LEDs on a nearby lamp post light up the main door. The lighting installations have also been designed to be very discreet, almost invisible to people passing by. “While everything had to be very sturdy, to resist vandalism, it also had to be unnoticeable so as not to impinge on the building itself,” explains Roupinian. As such, the source of the roof illumination is hidden and the light itself is described by Roupinian as five beams of illumination, gently grazing the church. “We had to contend with a tight budget and many architectural constraints, as well as issues such as providing low maintenance and vandal resistant fittings,” says Roupinian, “but I think the result really brings the church to life. It gives it a presence within the Quartier and hopefully will bring more attention to the good work of the mission, as well.”
Lightemotion: bringing theatre to church
François Roupinian, founder of Lightemotion, has surrounded himself with a multidisciplinary, multicultural team, managing projects in no less than five languages. The company, which is presently celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2012, has origins in the fields of the performing arts and multimedia. Lightemotion soon expanded into other fields of expertise, such as architectural and museum lighting; its signature style giving the studio an international reputation through work on major projects in Canada, Europe, the United States, Asia, the Middle East New Zealand and Australia. The scope of the company’s work is broad, including lighting designs for exhibitions (Museum of Strasbourg, Naturalis Museum in Leiden, National Museum of Singapore and the country’s National Library), as well as cabarets (at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas) and casinos, such as the Revel Casino in Atlantic City which is due to be completed in May 2012.
Recently, Lightemotion put its architectural lighting signature on the the Indiana Jones and the Adventure of Archeology travelling exhibit inaugurated at the Montreal Science Centre; the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile of Torino and the Wine Museum of Barolo in Italy; plus the Auckland War Memorial Museum, marking its 80th anniversary. The Montreal-based company also created the dramatic lighting design for the Canada Pavilion in Shanghai at Expo 2010, as well as The Residences at the Ritz-Carlton in Montreal, opening in 2012.Location: Montreal, Canada Architect: Lightemotion Photos: Martine Doyon