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Palace of International Forums, Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Issue 54 Apr/May 2010 : Architectural :


With the use of crystal chandeliers and LED cove lighting, Pfarré Lighting Design has added a ‘festive glamour’ to Uzbekistan’s impressive Palace of International Forums

Clad entirely in white marble and sitting on a base of polished black granite, the Palace for International Forums is a new government building located in the heart of Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent. Created for official events and international conferences, the Palace houses a 1,850 seat auditorium, conference rooms and an elegant banquet hall.
In April 2009, Pfarré Lighting Design was commissioned to create a scheme for both the exterior and 28,000 sqm interior space. With no specific brief, the team, headed by Gerd Pfarré, worked alongside interior designers Ippolito Fleitz to create a concept based on two principal goals: to integrate lighting into the building in a way that emphasised and respected the traditional Usbeki values apparent in the building’s architecture; and to imbue the space with a modern, festive elegance.

With magnificent full height windows, the interior and exterior schemes are ineffably interlinked. As they approach, visitors glimpse a preview of the impressive, chandeliered interior – something on which Pfarre was keen to capitalise. He wanted the building to glow with an inviting transparency. In order to achieve this, exterior fixtures needed to be glare-free. Street lighting is far enough away that it doesn’t interfere with the scheme (though these too were carefully selected for the project), so ERCO Lightmark bollards were installed on the approach to the palace. ERCO Thesis wall washers with sculpture lenses along with Thesis uplight pick out the building’s form, the white marble providing an ideal illumination surface.

Inside, visitors are greeted by the stunningly white main foyer - one of two in the building (the other is reserved for official occassions and VIP visits). A number of crystal chandeliers and luminaires were designed and manufactured especially for the project, custom-made in consultation with Pfarré and Ippolito Fleitz. The largest of these hangs from this main foyer space. Weighing 15,000 kg and incorporating a staggering 1.8 million Swarovski crystals it stretches 21 metres along the foyer ceiling. To create the piece, crystals were individually threaded onto long lengths of thin wire, in essence creating hundreds of necklace-like chains. These were then numbered and individually boxed, before being unpacked and fixed, chain by chain, to grippers attached on a base plate in the ceiling. Together they create a long pouch, five metres in depth, illuminated from above by cantilevered ERCO halogen fixtures with beam angles of between 5o and 30o. A suspended ceiling above allows easy access for fixture adjustment and maintenance.
The 18-metre high windows run the full length of the space. Each is headed by mirrored sections of ceiling into which 5o narrow beam spotlights have been installed. These lights accentuate the windows’ shape (also key for the external appearance of the building) and highlight the white marble flooring in the main foyer.

In between the windows run narrow ’slotlights’. A recessed 70W metal halide narrow beam spot (35W for the shorter slots found on the mezzanine level) is hidden at the top of each, illuminating a slanted panel at the slot’s base - which itself conseals an integrated loudspeaker.

Below the mezzanine, illumination comes from specially made ‘disclights’, while principal architectural elements in the main foyer, above columns and under the balustrades, are illuminated by cove lighting to enhance their design.

In the VIP foyer, both grand staircases are lit by ring-shaped wall fixtures and by matching chandeliers comprising five LED rings. Clad in crystals and edged with LEDs, the rings are hung from a height of 24 metres and vary in size from 2.5 to 5.5 metres in diameter.

Further chandeliers are found on the mezzanine level of the main foyer and above the main public staircase. Eight crystal spheres float in the space, each comprising 2,800 crystal spheres individual suspended with thin wires and illuminated by a ring of 50W, 5o recessed downlights around a central 150W 30o fixture. The largest of these spheres is positioned at the top of the main staircase. Here a large concaved indent in the wall echoes the chandelier’s geometry, its silvery-white palladium lining gently reflecting back the glow from the foyer lighting.
Both foyer and mezzanine skirt the curved outer shell of the Palace’s auditorium, which is also clad intirely in palladium. Dimmable T5 coving marks the point at which the wall joins the ceiling and alongside that a line of ERCO wallwashers evenly illuminate its curved surface. Dimmable feno LED cove lighting, in custom fixtures created for the project by German-based Korona Leuchten GmbH, runs flush around the wall’s base. Korona were also responsible for providing the LED cove lighting that picks out features like the pillars and balustrade elsewhere in the project - not least in the auditorium at the Palace’s core.

With a total height of nearly 48 metres, the auditorium itself delivers an impressive impact. Ippolito Fleitz’s idea, to create a cupola consisting of over- and under-layered rings, is enhanced by concealed LED strips and cool white fluorescents. Both are controlled by a DMX system allowing the stage lighting designer to use the entire auditorium for a huge variety of lighting effects. The entire space is essentially one large lighting object, topped with a ‘lighing eye’ – a seven metre wide ceiling of dimmable fluorescents.

Adding to the effect, a grooved corian wall surrounds the seating area. Backlit by dimmable Wasco WSL EVO fixtures, the soft glow framing the seating space nicely.

At each turn, the Palace of International Forums offers up yet more impressive architecture and interior design, brought together - and enhanced - by Pfarré’s graceful scheme. A total of 9,400 metal halide, halogen and fluorescent lamp fixtures were integrated in to the scheme along with 255,000 LEDs and of course those 1.8 million crystals. It’s all the more impressive when you learn that both planning and realisation of the lighting concept took just five months. “The timeline,” says Gerd Pfarré, “was definitely the craziest thing in my career.”


Pic: Zooey Braun

  • Pic: Zooey Braun

  • Pic: Zooey Braun

  • Pic: A J Focke

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