The gothic revival chapel at Rugby School was an exercise in balance for lighting design practice dpa. Martin Tomlinson finds out why

Heritage interiors are a special challenge for lighting professionals because there are so many factors to balance: integrity to the architecture, the lit environment and, of course, energy use.

The new lighting installation in the chapel of Rugby School in Warwickshire is a great example of what can be achieved within these constraints.

Rugby is the archetypal public school and the home of the eponymous sport. The estates team called in dpa lighting consultants to design a scheme for both the interior and the exterior of the school chapel. The building was designed by Gothic revival architect William Butterfield in 1875 and the interior remains as it was constructed, 135 years ago.

The decorated roof structure is evenly uplit by 150W metal halide projectors on the stone window sills. The main body of the chapel benefits from this indirect lighting and it is also lit by adjustable low voltage downlights in custom-designed 1,200mm-diameter pendants suspended from the full height of the chapel roof structure. Emergency lighting for the chapel is from LED downlights in the simple ring pendants.

Metal halide projectors have replaced halogen fittings

North and south

Accessible and adjustable track-mounted spotlights illuminate the north and south aisles, the altar, high level mosaic figures and the choir stall areas. All the lighting is controlled using an iLight architectural lighting control system.

Although the project started off as a new lighting scheme, the extensive lighting trial dpa carried out at an early stage revealed that installers would need access to the roof structure, so the school took the opportunity to repair and redecorate the roof. The newly painted roof beams and trusses look magnificent uplit in warm white light.

The interior lighting scheme for the chapel also brilliantly illuminates the stained glass windows, which becomes a stunning backdrop at night.

The warm white uplighting of the banded brick walls and the window tracery bring the building to life at night. Views of the tower at a distance from various positions around the school are enhanced by several high pressure sodium fittings in the bell tower interior, which project a warm glow and feeling of occupancy through the window tracery.

When the lighting to the remaining areas is installed it will complete the picture of a safe, well-lit and visually attractive school at night.

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