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New illumination for the Cathedral and its surroundings

16/05/05 This summer, the Gothic temple will boast an innovative illumination system in the tower, adjacent streets and squares.

16/05/05 The Santa María Cathedral and its adjacent streets and squares will boast an innovative illumination system this summer that will improve the quality of life of neighbours and visitors who walk across the Vitoria-Gasteiz Old Quarter and, at the same time, will light up one of the most emblematic monuments in the city.

This 135,000 euro illumination project, entirely funded by the Government of Álava, marks the accomplishment of one of the main aims set out in the Master Plan: the restoration of the Gothic temple and its surroundings as well.

Unlike other singular monuments and corners of the city, the Old Cathedral was left in darkness since the restoration works started. Through this illumination project, the Santa María Cathedral Foundation intends to improve the lighting of part of the Old Quarter´s Northern area to regain it as a usable public space.

Therefore, the project cannot be considered only as formal or symbolic illumination plan but as a functional one as well, following other initiatives by the City Council. It includes lighting improvements in three strategic areas: the Santa María Cathedral tower, the archaeological excavation at Plaza de Santa María and its surroundings, and Plaza de la Burullería.

The tower
The Old Cathedral´s tower is among the highest points in the city: it can be seen from anywhere. Besides, the monument has become a popular tourist and cultural attraction that, thanks to its new lighting, incorporates a special appeal for visitors.

The new system features a low light, creating an environment of semidarkness known as moonlighting effect, generated by high-power linear xenon floodlights or LEDline. They emit a linear, parallel beam whose light is intense, cool and narrow, and can be precisely controlled to bathe the wall in a uniform and perfect light.

This novel solution avoids the inconvenience posed by the widespread illumination system used in high structures such as towers or monumental buildings: high-power, narrow or medium-wide beam projectors installed on nearby buildings. This was not an option for the Cathedral´s tower, for after assembling the scaffolding, it would have cast huge shadows on the walls.

Archaeological excavation at Plaza de Santa María
Plaza de Santa María is a major archaeological site. It has revealed, and will surely go on revealing, secrets about the origins of Vitoria and the old village of Gasteiz. Today, the area is covered and surrounded by a wall. The illumination project for the site provides an overall lighting for the covered area and focal spots on the most outstanding excavations.

Besides, the covering structure, partially open to the streets, and the translucent pyramids will help strengthening the general lighting on the area. The solution proposed, an industrial illumination with broad-beam dispersion reflectors, will allow for solving the problem posed by the high naves. The supplementary lighting for didactic purposes will be provided by halogen lamps with reflectors that will highlight the archaeological findings.

Plaza de la Burullería
The Santa María Cathedral is accessed through Plaza de la Burullería during the restoration process. The illumination project for this area intends to strengthen the existing lighting by installing five big designer streetlights at the centre of the square. They will embellish the area and delineate the space signalling the access to the Visitor Reception Area. The 12 m high streetlights will be complemented by textile geometric objects: four tetrahedrons and one icosahedron that are highly appealing due to their shape and volume.

Inauguration this summer
The lighting of the Old Cathedral´s tower and its urban surroundings will be inaugurated this summer. There was a public bidding call for the project last March, but its complexity, particularly due to the illumination plan for Plaza de la Burullería, determined that the contract was not awarded in the end.

The major public dimension reached by the integral restoration project for the Santa María Cathedral has led Philips, the world leader in the lighting industry, to offer the Santa María Cathedral Foundation to create a design and produce the Plaza de la Burullería´s lighting devices´ prototype.