AV Connections’ Charleston Event Lighting Group completed an outdoor event light design at The Gardens at Middleton Place plantation so beautiful it literally awed hundreds of guests at Charleston Weddings magazine’s event, Stars of Middleton last night. Perhaps none more so than ourselves, but more on that further on.
Created in the 1700’s by Henry Middleton, The Gardens are literally the oldest landscaped gardens in America. Designed in the grand classic tradition so popular in Europe in the 1740’s when the plan for the property was developed, the Gardens espouse the design principles of rational order, geometry and balance. These are three disciples which our Charleston Event Lighting group know well. They are engineers and designers at heart. Their respect and dedication to lighting historic Charleston’s wedding and conference venues in ways respectful of the original hands is well known throughout Charleston event planning circles. AV Connections uses modern technology to light these delicate historic venues, but always with a reverence to the creators and visionaries who proceeded us in these great temples of beauty.
And so, when Charleston Magazine and Charleston Weddings began planning an event to show off Charleston’s famed historic plantation, Middleton Place, we approached the event lighting with the same rules upon which The Gardens were founded. Middleton Place’s gardens are acres of ancient design perfection: Walkways and allées are planted with trees and shrubs creating verdant green walls of small gallery gardens, green arbors, bowling greens, and secret gardens.
We set to the event lighting design for this wandering party which would take guests through five tents positioned in various gardens throughout. In the initial landscape design of The Gardens, mathematical precision was paramount. “Rational order, geometry and balance; vistas, focal points and surprises were all part of the garden design.” When our VP, Jared Luckhart, completed the event lighting design, all of the guiding principles of Middleton’s original design were both preserved and highlighted. Through focal-point uplighting placed carefully throughout the walkways and allee’s and swung wide through breezy Spanish moss and live oak limbs at the edges of the gardens, and literal miles of hidden cords – the finest points of the gardens and statuary were gracefully illuminated at every turn for an unforgettable party.
There are two keys to great event lighting design at Middleton Place Gardens: The first is reverence. It is already as perfect as a garden could ever be. We are careful not to adulterate or glitz what was so long ago set to the earth so perfectly. You can’t help but keep a bow to your head in this place. We walked with the ghosts of so much design and landscape talent through those allee’s, it was hard not to feel the pressure to make their work shine elegantly in darkness. Make it beautiful, yes. But make it beautifully mindful.
The second is elegance. Middleton Place’s Gardens are something beyond stunning. Until you stand in this place as night begins to fall, you’ll never truly understand. It has an illumination by star-light all its own. In that way, the work of man has shook hands with the twinkle of the heavens with such a fierce meeting of beauty that we are somehow inexplicably cautioned not to tamper with this immortal pair. In these times, we spend more time talking about the absence of this rare elegance than its presence in our lives. But Middleton is preserving a hauntingly alluring corner of the world where the best efforts of men and moonlight conspire to exploit one another’s magic on clear nights to do elegant, dreamy things.
We were merely stewards of this light. Conductors of an orchestra long ago created and we hope, showcased magnificently as never before by the tools of our trade.
And even though we did it. And even though it was so powerful and moving an adventure that we could have kept going into lit-infinity. There was a time when we had directed all the uplights, hung all the strands, and covered all the cord. Then, what bewitching lighting magic we had from our modern age to join this mighty pair reached a point where any more would cloak the masterpiece rather than highlight her features. We stopped. And we let them all dance together in the shared light of four centuries of design: The lights, the live oaks, the wood nymphs, the secrets, all the ghosts, the evening’s guests, and the most ancient of wild-cards, the Carolina moon-light. It was enchanting.
There is a time to design. A time to light. And a time to let history and nature take their course. That gave us a moment to see the way the intersection of the ages works in this place; a moment to take a breath and realize how very awed and humbled we are to be selected to light these allee’s.
We will never forget it.
(Would you like to see more pictures? Soon! This event is being published by a major magazine and we’ve agree not to publish our photos until the magazine hits newsstands. It will be worth the wait)