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Ecuador - Blue vibes at the New Cathedral of Cuenca


With its shady plazas, dazzling churches, and restored colonial mansions, Santa Ana of the Four Rivers of Cuenca (better known as Cuenca) is one of the most beautiful cities in South America. In 1999, UNESCO declared Cuenca’s center a World Cultural Heritage Site, in honour of the city’s historical value and harmonious mix of architectural styles.
 
Standing out for its beautiful sky blue domes, The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Cuenca, known as the Cathedral of Cuenca or the New Cathedral, is located in Parque Calderón facing the central plaza of the city, and is universally recognized as one of the most important architectural attractions in Ecuador.
 
The plan of the Cathedral was drawn up by Juan Bautista Stiehle, a German Redemptorist monk Brother who landed in Cuenca from Alsace in 1873. Construction works started in 1885 and lasted almost a century. Concluded in 1980, the Cathedral took over the function of the nearby Old Cathedral, which had become too small for the rapidly growing population of Cuenca.
 
Inspired by the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome, the New Cathedral combines several architectural styles, such as Romanesque Revival, Neo-Gothic, and Renaissance, whereas the predominant one is  Romanesque Revival, harking back to the architect’s place of origin, the Alsace. 
 
Distinctive feature of the cathedral, the three huge domes are covered in blue and white glazed tiles imported from the former Czechoslovakia. Its amazing stained glass windows were created by the Spanish artist Guillermo Larrazábal. While some of the marble of its façade come from local Ecuadorian sources, the rose colored marble stones used for the floors were sourced from Carrara, Italy. The stained glass windows were created by a Spanish artist and made with antique glass from France. All these facts together make the cathedral a monument dedicated to European artistry. 
 
From an architectural point of view, the church is still considered unfinished, as the original plans included two taller towers on the façade, which were never raised up to the planned height as the foundation of the church was not strong enough to support them owing to a calculation error of the architect.
 
Nevertheless, nowadays the cathedral is the icon of Cuenca and its amazing sky blue domes, which stand out throughout the historic center with a height of almost 60 meters, characterize the skyline of the city in a unique manner.
 
The illumination of the Domes 
Financed entirely by the Fundación Iluminar Luz y Color para Cuenca, a new lighting project for the domes of the cathedral started in October 2018 in conjunction with the relevant structural restoration works of the domes themselves. The authorities of Cuenca required low energy consumption and environmentally friendly LED luminaires to light up in white and blue tones the imposing domes of the cathedral, with the possibility to switch to different colours according to the festive or religious occasions of the city. 
 
Iván Genovéz, former director of Fundación Iluminar Luz y Color para Cuenca, along with Eng. Walter Morocho, Technical Manager and now ad interim Director at the same municipal organization, coordinated the phases of design, planning, commissioning and installation of the project, which was completed after the required tests on November, 23 and finalized at the conclusion of the architectural renovation work on the third dome at the end of April 2019. 
   
Based on the lighting design and relevant photometric calculations conceived by Eng. Walter Morocho of the Fundación Iluminar, GRIVEN’s lighting designers just had to advise the best possible optics combination for the chosen fixtures in order to achieve the required illumination level. The approved lighting design wanted to deliver to the three domes of the church a static white light enhancement on the drums and a dynamic colour changing effect on domes, lanterns, and cupulas.  
 
A series of PARADE S in cold white configuration with elliptical and elliptical wide optics were therefore installed at the base of the drum of the two side domes, while for the central, larger dome a further line of PARADE S was required at the top of the windowed drum, too. A total of 64 PARADE-S-W units, either with 40 or 60 LEDs according to the length of the available space, deliver a beautiful shade of intense cold white to the lower parts of the domes. 
 
As for the coloured parts, an amazing shade of sky blue with a uniform distribution has been reached with the help of POWERSHINE MK2 in the single and double bank version installed on the spires in front of the three domes. Fitted with medium optics on both LED modules, 12 units of POWERSHINE MK2 D in RGBW colour configuration were strategically located in groups of 4 around the three domes; using the same concept, 12 units of POWERSHINE MK2 in the single bank version complete the light distribution up to the highest part of the cupulas.
 
Managed via Power CDI Commander, a dedicated programming software for the architectural lighting equipment, all GRIVEN products allow a complete visualization of the colour changing scenes, with selectable colour change speed and interval times helping a fast programming procedure.
 
"In some occasions the prelates of the Catholic Church have asked us for example during the Holy Week, to deliver a purple color to the cathedral and now we will be able to do it ...", said Iván Genovéz, very safisfied with the final result of the installation. The night view on the city is really amazing: the coloured domes are visible from far away and draw the attention with their architectural perfection and amazing allure even at night. 
 
Products installed:
33x AL3121 PARADE S-W-40 COLD WHITE ELLIPTICAL
17x AL3121 PARADE S-W-60 COLD WHITE ELLIPTICAL
17x AL3121 PARADE S-W-60 COLD WHITE ELLIPTICAL WIDE
13x AL3690A POWERSHINE MK2 D RGBW
2x AL3700A POWERSHINE MK2 S RGBW SPOT
12x AL3702A POWERSHINE MK2 S RGBW MEDIUM
24x AL3714 MEDIUM OPTICS FOR POWERSHINE MK2 D
2x AL3717 EXTRA-WIDE OPTICS FOR POWERSHINE MK2 D
2x AL4118 POWER CDI COMMANDER
1x AL1321 INFRARED REMOTE CONTROL
6x AL0066A IP65 2 CH DMX SIGNAL AMPLIFIER
 
 
Pictures: Courtesy of Marcelo Pérez

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