Lamps Help Historic Georgia Capitol Building See in the Dark

Modeled after the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta was built in 1889. Its gold dome glittered during the day, but at night, the building and dome lost much of its luster. Even when 400-watt, high-pressure sodium lamps and lower wattage metal halide lamps were added, the night image of the Georgia State Capitol building left something to be desired.

CD+M Lighting Design group was able to change that with a new lighting scheme. Working with architecture firm Lord, Aeck & Sargent Architecture and GE Consumer & Industrial’s Lighting, the new lighting scheme had a number of goals, including emphasizing the newly restored limestone and brilliant gold leaf materials on the dome with a palette of complementary colors, while also highlighting a wide variety of interesting architectural details.

The proximity of buildings on three sides forced the use of a complex series of mounting locations and aiming angles. Using poles, rooftops and building facades, all lighting equipment was carefully concealed from view at street level, so the building would appear to glow from a distance. Ferreira said the color stability of all the lamps is greatly improved over the previous lighting design, and the new fixtures don’t distract from the building as they previously did.

The lighting team also considered ease-of-maintenance issues when designing the lighting scheme. All fixtures mounted on the Capitol rotunda can be maintained from two primary inside service points. More than half of the building’s floodlights are easy to access from adjacent rooftops, and the remaining fixtures are accessible from a cherry picker that can be parked alongside each mounting location.

The new exterior lighting design has received great feedback with its dramatic transformation of the nighttime look of the Georgia State Capitol building.

“The finish, color and architectural elements can now be viewed at night for the first time in the history of the building,” said Susan Turner, AIA, a principal at Lord, Aeck & Sargent and leader of the architecture firm’s Historic Preservation Studio. “The lighting is much more even now, adding both subtle and dramatic touches that showcase this architectural gem.”

The new lighting design also reveals an important element that previously was not visible at night—a statue called Miss Freedom at the dome’s crown.

“For about an equivalent amount of electrical power, the new design considerably improves the appearance of this historic landmark on the Atlanta skyline at night,” said Ferreira.  EC



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