In 2009, the City of Antwerp, Belgium, commissioned and implemented a comprehensive lighting master plan, the first major project of which involved new lighting for the main square and historical center, Grote Markt (Big Market). Based on the master plan’s success, the city allocated funds to light its most important monument, the Cathedral of Our Lady. Considered the most relevant and perfect expression of Brabantine Gothic style, the cathedral holds court on the city skyline from numerous vantage points.
Susanna Antico Lighting Design Studio’s lighting strategy celebrates the architectural masterpiece while creating ambiance in its adjacent public spaces, minimizing light pollution, and utilizing sustainable lighting practices.
Linear LED floodlights integrated into the cathedral’s façade create drama at night. Architectural detailing is highlighted from grade upward with diffuse, wall-grazing light that becomes sharper and more descriptive upward to the spire and its distinctive gold clock. Cooler color temperatures at the higher elevations create a greater depth of field for the viewer. The lighting fixtures, carefully concealed in the design, remain hidden during the day.
At ground level, walls of surrounding buildings reflect ambient light from remote projectors positioned on neighboring buildings with their owners’ approval. As a result of their different locations, the projectors output light that is not symmetrical, requiring tweaks in light optics, beam distribution, and intensities to achieve an even look.
Increasing the project’s complexity were restrictions against drilling into the cathedral’s stone masonry and mounting onto the historical building material. The entire installation—totaling 8 miles of cable and 675 luminaires—can be easily removed and the cathedral returned to its initial state.
Susanna Antico Lighting Design Studio’s thoughtful solution has led residents and visitors to linger at night in the soft lighting of the cathedral’s surrounds, now ideal settings for romantic walks or sipping Belgian beer. At the project’s inauguration, the mayor became emotional when switching on the lighting, and the cathedral’s pastor declared, “The cathedral finally has the lighting it deserves.”
“The lighting design fits the surrounding character and context, but yet has prominence and that wow factor.” —Rachel Fitzgerald, senior lighting designer and associate, Stantec
Project Name: Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp, Belgium
Client/Owner: City of Antwerp, Belgium
Lighting Designer: Susanna Antico Lighting Design Studio, Milan, Italy • Susanna Antico, Gad Giladi, Helena Gentili, Georg Balans
Electrical Engineer and Project Manager: Fluvius (formerly Eandis)
Cathedral Lighting Installation: Maes Industriële Verlichting
Cathedral Façade and Site Lighting Installer: Verstraete Vanhecke
Photographer: Benno Van den Bogaert
Project Size: 36,000 square meters
Project Cost: €2.5 million ($2.8 million)
Lighting Cost: €1.1 million ($1.2 million)
Watts per Square Foot: 0.04
Code Compliance: None required, but fully complies with European Commission 2030 climate & energy framework that requires a 40% cut in public energy consumption from 1990 levels. (The project has achieved cuts in energy consumption in excess of 80% as compared to the previous lighting system in use until 2018.)
Manufacturers: We-ef, Schréder, Griven, Willy Meyer+Sohn