Cutting a stunning shape in the Reykjavik skyline, Hallgrímskirkja is Iceland’s largest cathedral and a popular tourist attraction. Not only a place of worship, the church also serves as a local community hub by hosting many cultural events, concerts, and various ceremonies. Now it has a new lighting system to keep pace with the thriving ministry.

When the church committee decided to renovate the decades-old lighting in the main church hall and pipe organ room, they called upon Reykjavik-based lighting design firm, Liska. Their brief stipulated a versatile and dynamic lighting installation that would work in synchronicity with its surroundings and revolving events calendar.

The project set out to design and install a state-of-the-art lighting system that would provide flexibility to the user and moreover be accessible and easy to operate. Renovation of the lighting system had to be done while maintaining accessibility for the public wishing to visit and use the church. Furthermore, due to the church’s busy schedule, it was requested to complete the renovations in as little time as possible’ said Örn Erlendsson, Lighting Designer at Liska.

A smart wireless lighting ecosystem was specified with LED luminaires, sensors and dynamic controls. Through extensive planning and close collaboration between the contractor, luminaire manufacturer and project buyer, Liska was able to deliver the project in under a month.  The wireless functionality of Casambi helped to deliver against such a tight deadline.

Divine aesthetics and smart functionality

Hallgrímskirkja church offers breathtaking architecture with beautiful curves and leading lines stretching up into the high-ceiling vaults. The concept sought to highlight the architectural features, using light to emphasize depth and volume.

‘It was also designed to guide visitors through the church by focusing lights on pathways through the church hall and to provide appropriate lighting and light levels for church ceremonies. We wanted to offer dynamic colorful scenes for the many diverse events, ceremonies and concerts scheduled throughout the church’s calendar year’ explains Örn.

The lighting works in unison with the architecture, explains Örn, to emphasize dimension, interact with shape, and volume by visually broadening or accentuating verticality. RGBTW lighting is used to strengthen key architectural elements and affect the visitor’s perception of depth in the church. The altar is illuminated with Tunable White spotlights so that it can stand out clearly regardless of the temperature or color of other lighting. The church organ is emphasized with TW front lights and RGBW backlights which engage in a geometric shadowplay – changing with different light and color combinations. Warm light is used for downlights to provide a comforting atmosphere for contemplation and sufficient levels for reading. Glare has been minimized by careful aiming.

Careful consideration was made to limit disturbing light. Luminaires are therefore strategically positioned and aimed to be hidden from visitors when entering the church and not visually disturbing to attendants of events’ he adds.

Inspired by local roots and surroundings

Örn explains that inspiration for the lighting concept was drawn from various sources: Icelandic nature, the colors of the church throughout the calendar year, as well as the philosophy of Nordic lighting in relation to the Nordic sky.

Automated lighting cycles adjust to the Nordic winter darkness and save energy throughout the brighter periods by applying dimming profiles as well as providing a color temperature distinctive to the time of day and season.

Casambi control

Previous lighting fixtures and tracks were removed, and new tracks and luminaires installed along with dynamic and wireless controls. In total, the Casambi network is made up of 211 nodes which are programmed into roughly 60 scenes, both static and dynamic in nature. Luminaires are grouped by functionality but are also individually controllable. General scenes include daylight cycles (visitor opening hours and church service scenes) and are accessible on switches.  More advanced controls are provided on a tablet to offer breath-taking dynamic scenes for evening contemplations or cultural events and endless creative options.

‘Lighting in the main church hall and organ room is controlled with a Casambi gateway via an iPad tablet. For ease of access, general scenes are also controllable with wireless EnOcean switches. Furthermore, several Casambi control units and EnOcean switches are used to control halogen luminaires in adjacent spaces which are scheduled to be renovated in the future.’

The project utilizes Casambi to control RGBW, TW and the light intensity of roughly 200 luminaires in the aforementioned locations. Casambi was used to program a multitude of versatile lighting scenes. Some of these scenes are executed manually via the Casambi App while others are scheduled via automated timers.

‘General lighting in the church follows the philosophy of human-centric lighting with automated scenes being executed based on the time of day and season. Scheduled scenes and daylight sensors are used to reduce energy consumption and ensure that lighting is only turned on when needed’. 

Örn noted that the commissioning process for multiple complex scenes was a bigger-than-expected undertaking – something that Casambi could address. This is a challenge that we are seeking to overcome through Casambi Pro, which is a free planning and pre-commissioning tool designed to simplify the process of configuring lighting controls. It’s been designed for specifiers like Örn and commissioning partners who are all too familiar with the lengthy technical configuration processes that can apply to large lighting projects.

Örn shares that the client is very impressed and pleased by the outcome. A recent recipient of a prestigious LIT award in the Heritage Lighting/Spectrum Lighting category, this project really has delivered something quite spectacular, exceptionally photogenic and highly beneficial to the local community.


Reykjavik, Iceland

Lighting design:
Liska ehf.
Design team: Örn Erlendsson, Guðjón L. Sigurðsson, Kateřina Blahutová



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Verkpallar ehf

Casambi nodes

Örn Erlendsson

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