Text and photos: Rebecca Degiorgio

24. Jan 2014

Handling our cultural heritage
Lighting World Heritage Cities – a case study of Valletta

As part of her studies to gain a Master of Science degree in Light and Lighting from The Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, University College London, Rebecca Degiorgio wrote her dissertation on the role urban lighting plays in historic urban centres, taking a closer look at amenity lighting that goes beyond the basic needs of safety. The study focussed on the City of Valletta, Malta and aimed to obtain the perceived diurnal and nocturnal image of the city and relate how designed urban lighting can help solve the problems and address the challenges the World Heritage Cities face.

In recent decades urban lighting has evolved from being a functional issue to a cultural one, thus promoting the awareness and rediscovery of distinctive characteristics of the urban morphology. The lighting of heritage cities is seen as a major component of redevelopment. Terzi (2001) explains that it has the ability to enhance details and put in order fragments that help to recreate atmospheres reflecting a meaningful hierarchy that is difficult to perceive during daylight hours given the visual overload. The traditional approach to urban lighting appears to be fuelled by the need to ‘fight-off’ the night until dawn breaks. Thus a need then arises to light one individual monument – a façade or a square. Terzi (2001) argues that this approach typically favours landmarks which are considered representative of collective identity, resulting in a destruction of the collective image, a falsification of the architectural spatial qualities. There is a link between the monument and its context, which must not be ignored. Charters and principles laid down by UNESCO and ICOMOS, such as the Vienna Memorandum (2005) and the Valletta Principles (2011), set forth the framework and the need to consider the historic city as an ensemble – an historic urban landscape. This goes beyond the individual monument but promotes the importance of its surroundings and a broader social context. […]

The full version of the article can be found in PLD Nr. 91

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