SACRED HEART CATHEDRAL, KERICHO, KENYA
JOHN MCASLAN + PARTNERS AND ARUP LIGHTING
At Kericho Cathedral in Kenya’s Rift Valley, the
country’s second largest cathedral, ‘natural lighting
plays a fundamental role for its symbolic significance
to the Catholic faith,’ says Aidan Potter of architect
John McAslan + Partners.
The design for the cathedral centres on an ascending
vaulted volume expressed by a great inclined roof,
which cantilevers out over the external walls to
provide protection from the daily rain. The primary
structure is expressed internally as a series of parallel
concrete arches spanned by a veil of timber battens.
The arches increase in height and span towards the
sanctuary where the whole building, in plan and
in section, splays. The seating is organised radially
and is at its widest around the altar to bring that
closer to the congregation.
The vaulted interior is framed with concrete ribs and
rendered stone. Natural light is integrated into the
building structure, in particular with a full-length,
central skylight and side doors. The skylight widens
towards the altar, modulating the daylight so that
light levels rise towards the altar, making it the focal
point of the interior composition. Although levels of
natural light vary considerably, from intense overhead
sunlight to overcast rain-filled skies, in the cathedral’s
high-altitude location, an intermediate glass layer in
the skylight distributes daylight uniformly. However,
the veil of battens counters the uniformity by creating
subtle shadow patterns in the aisles and near the altar,
and light also seeps in from the side of the building,
creating an intimate effect in the aisles.
‘Daylight animates the architecture, interacting with
the building’s materiality expressed by the concrete
arches and timber slats, and creates a visual hierarchy
to draw attention towards the altar – illuminated by
a shaft of light,’ says Potter.
Most services take place during the day; at night,
the architectural lighting, most notably, creates
alternating areas of shadow and light in the ceiling;
the main interior sources are Reggiani’s Sunluce
track projector and its Lorosae pendant, while Envios
IP66 projectors are used to light the exterior.
Opposite: the skylight widens towards the altar, modulating
the daylight so that light levels rise towards that focal point