The interior of St. Anne’s Church in Houston, Texas, was renovated as a result of Vatican II recommendations to accommodate the new liturgy. A new lighting system was included in this renovation in order to highlight these changes.
Michael John Smith, project lighting designer for Lutron, wanted to reveal the unique architectural features of the space without drawing attention to the light sources. His goal: “To alter as little as possible while revealing more than ever before.”
Recognizing that the church has many functions, each requiring different lighting, led Smith to specify preset light control. Smith programmed the controls to the appropriate light levels for each activity. Fade times were employed to add drama. There is convenient access to the controls and the system is able to subtly focus the congregation’s attention through changes in scenes during different services.
St. Anne’s has realized financial savings because the lighting system requires less energy when lights are dimmed. Dimming also extends lamp life and reduces the need to change difficult-to access bulbs as often, and lighting maintenance labor costs have not increased despite the fact that 20 original fixtures were replaced by approximately 100 new fixtures.
Dimming is always part of Smith’s lighting design for a project such as this. “We dim for lamp life extension and to reduce maintenance costs… as well as for aesthetics. Gradual changes in the lighting level allow for a subtle reinforcement of activities. Focal lighting draws the eye of the congregation while providing a varied luminous environment.”
The new lighting was installed during the 40 days of Lent, and the evening Easter Vigil was the first service to be performed. From semi-darkness at the beginning of the service (for a somber mood), the lights were brought up to full (at the Easter Gloria) with the choir singing for a breathtaking, powerful and emotional event. The congregation gasped and then applauded at seeing the renovated space in a new light.