This article is primarily based on a lecture presented by Dr. Amardeep M Dugar at the LED Expo Thailand 2017, Bangkok. While he has not authored the article, some of his works along with other publications are used as references for describing the role of lighting as a vital component in urban redevelopment.
Urban redevelopment is defined as the rehabilitation of city areas by renovating or replacing dilapidated buildings with new housing, public buildings, parks, roadways, industrial areas, etc. A factor requiring critical attention in urban redevelopment is lighting. Lighting has an overall impact on the orientation, safety, use and visual quality of urban nighttime environments. While fulfilling technical and security requirements – facilitating movement and illuminating dark areas – lighting also serves basic social and aesthetic functions by influencing how cities are used and perceived by its people.
Comprehensive urban lighting schemes also known as urban lighting master plans have had very successful outcomes in various cities across the world. However, by merely adapting successful urban lighting design blueprints in the redevelopment planning of cities cannot address these necessary requirements. The article describes how urban redevelopment planning requires academic research identifying applicable lighting design best practices.
What is urban redevelopment?
- Process to improve and rehabilitate urban areas or neighbourhoods
An assertive urban improvement plan is comprised of social, physical-environmental, and housing projects adapted to each community. When starting a comprehensive rehabilitation project in informal settlements, the first aspect of consideration is a comprehensive understanding of the parameters that characterize the community.
In order to do so, it is vital to establish a base to define the intervention priorities for the area. A topographic survey to project the construction plans is also required, in addition to a census of the community to determine its potentiality and needs. From this base information, specific rehabilitation projects may be prepared.
- Process can include removing run-down features and adding up-to-date feature
A comprehensive urban renewal plan does include uplifting that particular geography. The process must encompass the run-down features to be removed besides adding the most recent features.
What is urban lighting?
- Public and private luminaires that directly or indirectly illuminate urban spaces
As essential elements of the urban structure, streets, squares, parks and pedestrian areas shape the face of a city and community. This is where public life takes place and where different requirements for utilisation come together – transport, consumption, sojourning, recreation, entertainment. Electric light impacts orientation, use, safety and the visual quality of public spaces after dark.
While fulfilling technical and security requirements – facilitating user movement along pathways and illuminating dark spaces in the public realm – electric light also serves social and aesthetic functions by influencing how lit spaces are used and perceived. Urban Planners need to create safe and engaging public spaces, and lighting design is of critical importance to the vitality of these spaces.
What are the objectives of urban lighting?
- Provide a safe and secure environment for people
The primary purpose of lighting is to establish functional and aesthetic criteria to improve the quality, consistency and efficiency of urban lighting. Focusing on enhancing peoples’ experience in the city after dark, lighting must be designed and developed to ensure that aesthetics are balanced with public safety, amenity and concern for energy efficiency.
- Create safe routes for traffic, cyclists and pedestrians
Much of the form and function of public space at night is determined by electric light. Light guides cars and bicycles along roads and paths, and influences their speed of travel. It illuminates dark corners and facilitates the safe passage of pedestrians. Creating safe routes for traffic, cyclists, and pedestrians in the modern developing cities is vital from the point of view of public health.
- Facilitate the extended use of parks, open areas and sports facilities
Well-researched lighting of open space and recreation facilities is important to the quality of life and physical wellbeing of people. Better lighting enhances the proximity of recreational facilities and amenities. Moreover, well-lit parks provide local opportunities for different types of leisure pursuits and play an important role in encouraging physical activity among various subpopulations (i.e., different age, ethno-cultural, and socioeconomic groups).
- Enhance significant elements and key points by creating lighting opportunities
As essential elements of the urban structure, streets, squares, parks and pedestrian areas shape the face of a city and community. Lighting should identify and preserve key urban elements that are associated with the image of these cities such as gateways, landmarks and views. Luminaire locations can be prioritized and mapped to correspond with the locations of these identified elements. By noting where and where not to place luminaires will enable the preservation and protection of these elements while facilitating their nighttime use by the public.
In addition, these spaces are increasingly forming the framework for coming together for major events – and are thus progressively becoming a stage for social, cultural and sporting events, for example, as public venues for watching a cricket match or as event locations for concerts. Due to the diverse requirements in public spaces, well-thought out fail-proof functional planning and attractive design are becoming ever more important. For all this to be visibly appealing lighting must play an important role.
What are the problem areas in urban lighting?
- Isolated design strategies by multiple industry players
Until recently, financial and functional interests have largely dictated lighting design in public spaces. Luminaires implemented by a variety of industry players to serve different purposes can produce excess light in public spaces. As a result, anticipated effects diminished as luminaires compete and conflict with one another. The human eye can only adapt to one level of illumination, therefore the anticipated effects of a luminaire is diminished when light sources compete.
Unlike other urban features, lighting cannot be designed in isolation as its glow affects the greater urban environment. Over-illumination or light pollution has negatively impacted natural habitats and is a nuisance to neighbouring residents and patrons of lit spaces. Poorly coordinated lighting strategies can compete and conflict with one another, detracting from both the functionality and aesthetics of our cities.
- Light pollution
Light pollution has become a global problem that is gradually diminishing our capacity to observe the stars. It can be defined as the direct or indirect entry of electric light into the environment. It is new form of waste that gives rise to energy and environmental impacts, damage to ecosystems and the degradation of the night sky. White light leads to the degradation of nighttime ambiance, altering the nature of urban areas and environments, with unforeseeable consequences.
- Excess light in public spaces causing negative impact on natural habitats
Scientific evidence suggests that artificial light at night has negative and deadly effects on many creatures including amphibians, birds, mammals, insects and plants. Nocturnal animals sleep during the day and are active at night. Light pollution radically alters their nighttime environment by turning night into day.
How can urban lighting establish an identity?
- Urban identity – emphasize perceptible or latent heritage characteristics
Light in the city is necessary for orientation. Lighting makes it possible to distinguish streets, pats and parks and allows users of public spaces to see each other. The illumination of buildings, the lighting of objects and of green spots in the city can also serve to beautify the surroundings, providing it is done well. Lighting of outdoor spaces is an important criterion for the urban identity.
Brand identity – emphasizing history, geography or consistency
Light is a design element with physical, psychophysical and aesthetical aspects. Light and colour strongly affect the perceived image and identity of a space. Beyond the fundamentals of providing adequate vision, urban lighting can also serve as an organizer and a conveyer of spatial hierarchies while giving a visual identity to a city, so many cities worldwide are interested in the topic of night urban planning.
- Neighbourhood identity – differentiated light, luminous colours or luminaires
Lighting should highlight architecturally significant structures, define space and have the ability to transform background buildings into canvases for shadow, colour and motion. It also allows public spaces to be enjoyed at night, altering the landscapes to allow for new and unique evening experiences. Similarly, light serves as a way-finding tool, reinforcing neighbourhood boundaries and identities, and influencing how we perceive and move through space.
What else should the design of urban lighting take into consideration?
- Illumination levels, Sky-glow, Over-lighting and Glare
Natural light entrains or regularizes basic and fundamental biological activities across species from plants to us humans. The negative effects of light pollution on plants and animals in the environment are numerous. Designers should be mindful of these negative impacts while designing urban lighting. Appropriate luminaire designs such as downward facing, shielding or full cut-oﬀ angles can restrict excess luminance on the ground, as well as light spill into the sky.
- Shadows, Darkness and Mystery
Lighting should recognize the benefits of contrasting dark and lighted spaces. Darkness serves important functional and aesthetic purposes such as protecting nocturnal habitats that thrive in darkness or require natural solar patterns to survive, and creating a sense of mystery or drama in open spaces by amplifying lighted spaces. Lighting can therefore be designed around darkness to enhance and modify peoples’ perception of urban features at diﬀerent times of the day.
- Colour, Sound, Motion and Art
Lighting should encourage and explore the use of state-of-the-art multimedia tools for infusing colour, sound, motion and art into the public realm. Luminaires could be purpose-designed and built to either support temporary art installations or themselves become a part of the larger urban furniture as art tools. Dynamic mediums such as luminous colours, displays, laser, etc., can draw interest, oﬀset overcast conditions or even combat unattractive environments, there-by transforming the way these cities are perceived and used at night.
- Safety and Connectivity
The purpose of city lighting is clearly to enhance citizen safety, security, to support business interest, to save energy and improve the city’s nighttime ambience, while minimizing light pollution. Lighting is highly visible and a positive nighttime image of the city can help enhance communication, social interaction, esthetical enhancing, visual comfort, safety and security.
- Monitor and evaluate existing lighting strategies
Monitoring existing installations to better understand where improvements can be made and innovation applied can advance the urban lighting realm. A variety of techniques can be used to gain public support, build interest and increase the civic value of lighting. These include working with local socio-economic players to define area-specific features or promoting a unified image for luminaires, providing necessary training to city technicians or manufacturers for monitoring existing installations, and encouraging innovative luminaires for new development projects.
- Finally, why develop a lighting master plan?
A lighting master plan should be designed to reinforce urban lighting as a tool to improve way-finding, present neighbourhood character and enforce a coherent image for the city. A citywide lighting master plan allows for the clarification and expansion of individual lighting components found in existing city plans. It improves the visual presence of existing built landscapes. Lighting is often used to draw attention to architecturally significant buildings.
Light, however, can better the visual appeal of all types and styles of buildings.Within a lighting master plan, buildings with less visual appeal, such as industrial buildings, could be identified as canvases for illumination to improve neighbourhood quality. A lighting master plan does not dictate design, but guides development towards a balanced, appealing and organic lighting program. Because of the diversity of players involved in urban lighting projects, coordination is necessary to ensure that maximum, local benefit is achieved and a unified image of the city is presented.
About Dr. Amardeep M Dugar:
Dr. Amardeep M Dugar, IALD, is the founding principal of Lighting Research & Design, a Chennai-based firm that specializes in applied research and design consultancy. Dr. Dugar received a B.Arch. from GGSIP University in New Delhi, India. After completing an M.A. in architectural lighting from the University of Wismar in Hochschule, Germany, he went on to pursue his Ph.D. from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand to solidify his academic and professional leadership role into a career at a higher level.
As a trained lighting designer, his notable projects include the Hotel Arcadia, Coimbatore & Medical Society Building, Berlin, which were awarded the IES 2013 Section Award & IALD 2004 Award of Excellence respectively. As an educationist, he has been teaching at several architecture schools & presented lectures at several international conferences such as IALD Enlighten 2014 & 2016; IES Annual Conference 2012 & 2015; IES Research Symposium 2016; Light Fair International 2014; Light Focus 2004 & 2006; PLDC 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015 & 2017 and LED Expo Thailand 2017. In the area of lighting research, his achievements include First place at the IISF 2016 – Young Scientists’ Conclave besides numerous papers in international publications such as LR&T, LEUKOS, LD+A, JL&VE, PLD & mondo*arc.
As the Co-Coordinator for the International Association of Lighting Designers’ (IALD) India Region, Dr. Dugar has been busy organizing & undertaking IALD India Light Workshops, a series of practical hands-on educational light installation workshops for professionals & students throughout universities in India.
Dugar, A. M. (2016). Urban lighting masterplan – a step towards creating smarter cities. In India International Science Fest (IISF 2016) – Young Scientists Conclave (pp. 127–128). New Delhi, INDIA.
Dugar, A. M. (2017). Urban Lighting Masterplans. Mondo*arc India, 12, 28.
Dugar, A. M. (2017, September). A Roadmap for Lighting Smart Cities. Lighting Design And Application, 47(9), 57–59.
Paskovic, A. (2012). Urban lighting: Planning for Public Spaces in Vancouver’s Southeast False Creek. Queen’s University Kingston, ON CANADA.