Custom lighting highlights historical renovation.

Unseen for more than half a century, the Historic Fayette County Courthouse’s dome in Kentucky has been revealed. The restoration, led by K. Norman Berry Associates (KNBA) and Deborah Berke Partners (DBPA), is a success story about how to reinvigorate the city’s center by unearthing a buried treasure.

Among the many difficulties faced during the renovation, the lighting was a unique challenge. The building, which opened in 1899, was the first fully electrified building in the area. The use of lights in the dome was groundbreaking at the time. So, when it came time to renovate it, the design team needed a one-of-a-kind solution.

Design challenge #1:

Prior to 1960 when the rotunda was last visible, the light sockets were designed for small globe incandescent bulbs. To change them, maintenance had to go into the crawlspace above the dome to lower individual lamps more than 60’ to the floor.

The design team wanted to reuse the existing holes but needed a better way to relamp fixtures.

Our engineers designed custom sockets for the dome1 and oculus2 that could be pulled through the hole from the top, enabling relamping from above. The solution maintained the original architect’s intent for illuminating the space and provided a common-sense approach to maintenance.



Design challenge #2:

To accentuate the architecture and draw eyes upward, the architect planned marquee lighting3 around the perimeter of the rotunda. We helped execute this vision by creating a custom recessed socket for the marquee lights that were designed to replace the historic surface mount fixtures while minimizing the visibility of the new socket. The solution had a stunning effect that frames the dome in light.



Design challenge #3:

In an adjoining hall, contemporary globe pendants were envisioned the space. But before the lights could be hung, engineers needed to figure the best way to minimize power drops in the open ceiling. We helped solve the problem by creating custom enclosures to serve as hubs throughout the room. Today, multiple pendants are swagged from central canopies, creating a festive atmosphere for the event space.

This pre-renovation photo shows the location of the original dome lighting.

Photographer: Greg Brumagen, CMTA

Illuminating the past for the future

Achieving key lighting elements was crucial to restoring the rotunda to its original grandeur while preserving the building’s existing architectural fabric. Working in collaboration with the design team and engineers, we sought to understand these challenges and overcome them with customized solutions that were cost effective and functional. Thanks to the dedication of city leadership, this architectural landmark has been revived and now serves as a hub for business and entertainment in Lexington, Kentucky.

Read more about the renovation of the former Fayette County Courthouse or contact SPI Lighting’s Custom Division to get help solving your unique lighting challenge.