Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Singapore

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum is one of the most striking landmarks in Singapore’s Chinatown district, and a place where Buddhists attend a range of daily services.

Opened in May 2007, and consecrated in 2008 as a Chinese Buddhist temple, the Tang-styled Temple has particular importance to Buddhists as it is home to a religious relic; a Tooth of the Buddha. This artefact is the centrepiece of the building and sits in the Sacred Light Hall on the Temple’s fourth storey.

Aurecon was appointed by the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, to provide specialist lighting consultancy services for a significant upgrade of its lighting system. The work was carried out to better enhance the visitor experience for both tourists and worshippers, and to draw closer attention to the Temple’s intricate design and detailing. This included a full overhaul of the Temple’s interior and exterior lighting sources.

Lighting design

One of the design objectives was to strike a balance between maintaining the serenity expected of a place of worship while also creating a system that would best highlight the incredibly detailed design of the building and its array of culturally-significant artefacts. 

Aurecon proposed a new lighting system for all the public interior and exterior areas. In particular, emphasis was placed on improving the exterior lighting of the Temple’s facade and landscape, as well as its lighting control systems which were suffering functionality issues caused by wear and tear. The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is instantly recognizable in its neighbourhood, but much of its beauty lies in its detail, so the lack of adequate exterior lighting meant visitors and passers-by were not able to fully appreciate the intricacy of the building. For the team at Aurecon, this was one area of work where immediate improvement could be made.

Aurecon’s project team approached the execution phase with sensitivity, given that the facility would be operational during the upgrading work and out of respect for the religious landmark. Aurecon proposed new lighting system, to be installed in both public interior and exterior areas (excluding the Temple’s museum), with detailed plans, drawings and more to demonstrate how the new lighting system would improve the experience for those attending the Temple.

Constant dialogue with the Temple’s facilities management team was equally important. Aurecon ensured a consistent flow of information as the project team reviewed and assessed the management team’s diverse responses while they adapted to new controls and multiple light programming. By ensuring such clear and frequent dialogue, adjustments could be more easily and accurately tailored to accommodate preferences and to improve the system further.

Overcoming technical challenges

Taking into account that the Temple was a finished structure, lighting replacement required extra careful handling to ensure no damage was caused to the building’s polished surfaces. Special attention was paid to work that needed to be done close to Temple finishes, which could not be altered to match lighting fixtures.

Running new electrical cables in many areas proved impossible. In response, Aurecon’s project team showcased their creative versatility by developing bespoke, onsite solutions to adjust the output and beam angles from light fittings to suit each space.

Throughout the project, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple remained fully operational from morning to night, and also on many nights when religious ceremonies were taking place – sometimes up to midnight. Work in the Temple’s public spaces was conducted in the early hours, when the building was closed. Tasks such as light testing, commissioning and turning were also performed then. Rope access was used at these times too, to facilitate facade lighting replacement work.

Visitors and worshippers at the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum now enjoy a better experience overall and are able to enjoy the facility’s beauty in an environment that pays respect to the importance of the Temple while still showcasing its wonder. Additionally, through the use of LED technology, the electricity consumption of the temple also decreased, thus making an important contribution to the sustainable and responsible use of resources.

Overall, the client was happy with the new lighting; many spaces in the temple are brighter and lighted correctly with the proper tuning and adjustment of light levels and aiming. The facade lighting has helped the temple display its magnificence at night as a significant landmark. Maintenance requirements have also been reduced; it is now easy to control lighting in all spaces. The Chief Monk was very pleased as the temple’s fine and intricate details are now highlighted better than before.

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