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A Lighting Tour of Istanbul

My wife and I are currently visiting Istanbul -- a fascinating city from a design point-of-view.  Settled by the Greeks as Byzantium in the Seventh Century BC, it later became the seat of the Holy Roman Empire when Constantine converted to Christianity and moved the Roman Empire eastwards. Constantinople became Istanbul when it was invaded by the Ottomans in 1453 and was transformed into the Islamic seat of the Ottoman Caliphate. The mix of culture and styles are impossibly rich.

Istanbul is now the largest urban conurbation in either Europe or the middle east, and the fifth largest city in the world with over 14 million people. It is also an increasingly important center of modern art and design.

History is reflected in the city's memorable lighting. It forms the centerpieces of the two of the most important cultural buildings in the city -- the Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque. Subsequent lighting styles -- from the street lamps to even the most modern styles used in hospitality application in the poshest districts -- subtly reflect this lineage.

Incidentally, both these buildings are perfect illustrations of what we tell our clients all the time: Don't hang your fixtures too high! Both structures are notable in having gorgeous Ottoman-era fixtures just a few feet above the heads of the tourists below, despite the fact that the vaulted ceilings and domes above are up to five stories above that. The ottomans knew that lighting needed to be where the people needed it -- close to them -- and were functional objects as well as art.

We view our own lighting the same way.