Mark Major – Speirs & Major

Mark Major

One of my key inspirations is the great first-century Byzantine church Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

I first went there as an architectural student and found its massive volume quite breathtaking. Light seems to fill it, tumbling from the high-level clerestories to create a stunning visual effect with sunlight piercing the space with solid-looking beams of light. The manner in which the massive candelabra float above the floor further enhances the tremendous sense of scale and height. They are not original fixtures, but something similar existed when it was built. By night one could imagine that the whole church was filled with soft, golden, glowing-upward light creating a sensational effect.

A great description of this is recorded in the Silentiary’s poem (AD563). Reading it further inspired me – the way in which architecture is revealed after dark has been important for thousands of years. It may not be architecturally ’pure’, with its many layers of history, but as an essay on the integration of natural and artificial light Hagia Sophia shows that lighting design played its part – even in AD500.

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