Reminiscent of Oxford University's Magdalen Tower, the First Congregational Church (FCC) is a stunning Gothic Revival cathedral and home to the oldest Protestant church in continuous service in Los Angeles. Completed in 1932, the main sanctuary is spacious and tranquil with high arched ceilings, stained glass windows, beautiful workmanship, and the world's largest church pipe organ. Although the church is visually rich, its archaic dim white lighting made it nearly impossible to discern any of the architectural details.
The FCC needed brighter illumination as well as more architectural lighting to highlight the many points of interest in the interior, but to do so with conventional lighting would have cost $250,000 to run additional power to the church. To significantly reduce their energy needs, the church called on Mitch Payton of Showpro of Los Angeles, CA, to create and implement a retrofit lighting design using LED lighting technology. ShowPro then called in First Circle Design LLC of Newport Beach, CA, to help facilitate the switch to an LED-based solution opened doors for new design opportunities without requiring the church to bring additional power into the facility.
The design team first addressed the chandeliers and vintage theatrical ellipsoidal front lights that were significant culprits in energy usage. They replaced the chandelier's dim light fixtures with LED PAR lamps, and the theatrical front lighting with Color Kinetics eW Blast Powercore LED wash lights. The wash lights are so bright that the church is able to run them at less than 50% of maximum output, allowing them to realize additional energy savings.
The choir and Christ light, which were previously lit by visible halogen puck, clip, and PAR lights, are now illuminated by iW Cove Powercore LED cove lights (now specified using PureStyle IntelliHue Powercore) hidden within the architectural molding to eliminate glare. The luminaires' variable color temperature allows the church to precisely adjust the white hue to bring out the richness of the wood treatments and the brilliance of the Christ light. The church pipe organ is now beautifully bathed in vivid color-changing light using a combination of ColorBlast Powercore, ColorGraze Powercore (now specified with ColorGraze IntelliHue Powercore
), and iColor Cove MX Powercore LED luminaires (now specified using PureStyle Compact Powercore, IntelliHue), which illuminate the organ's pipes as well as the beautiful carvings on the organ's body and the surrounding walls of the niche. A DMX controller allows the FCC to customize lighting schemes for any occasion, such as religious events and weddings.
The new LED lighting system has revitalized the sanctuary, brightening the space and beautifully illuminating previously invisible architecture and design. Not only has the new lighting improved visibility and cut the church's energy costs by over 50%, it has also resulted in a 100% increase in attendance. First Circle design LLC states, "Life has different moments — and different colors. The new LED lighting system in the church has become a visual representation of who they are and what they are trying to communicate."