Text: Magna Ferreira Schulz

08. Jan 2013

Light in underground stations
Lighting in the way beyond the requirements

Underground stations today are more than transit systems designed to transport city dwellers and visitors across town in the fastest, safest way possible and relieve road traffic. They also contribute to the status and identity of the city and its inhabitants. Design has begun to play an increasingly important role when planning stations. A lighting designer must go beyond standard requirements and create a custom solution for that particular station that will facilitate way finding but also please users aesthetically. Light can help to create this kind of attraction and a sense of uniqueness for the environment. A valuable and indirectly sustainable side effect is the increased interest in using public transportation. The number of good design projects for stations is growing, although there are not so many sources of reference for this sector of the lighting design industry.

The role of light in underground stations
The majority of stations do not have any lighting design strategy to enhance architecture and key features. Light is usually too uniform. Identity is also forgotten. They look very similar with their typical linear fluorescent fixtures mounted on the ceiling above the platform. The main question at the beginning of the author’s research was: why is the experience of everyday commuters and travellers generally so stressful and unpleasant? And consequently, how can this situation be improved, if not from the architecture or design aspects, at least froma lighting design perspective? Before searching for answers, it is important to understand what kind of light is required in underground stations to address architectural elements, design features and functionality. The first role of light in underground stations is to provide general illumination but in accordance to the different zones within the overall space: ≥ railway track and signalling
– platforms
– circulation areas
– ticket sales and retail space
– entrances and exits / parking

For each zone there are guidelines for illuminance levels in order to keep the environment safe and legible for the users. However, if one wants to achieve a refined aesthetical approach to the design, one must go beyond the norms, creating at the same time – through light – a functional and an attractive space. A good lighting design concept in underground stations also requires a sound understanding of the architecture and design elements. […]
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The full version of the article can be found in PLD No. 85.

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