Text: Dennis Köhler, Dipl.-Ing. Arch, M.Sc. / Raphael Sieber, Dipl.-Geogr.; University of Applied Sciences Dortmund – research project “Light_Space”.
Photo: Hans Blossey

05. Apr 2012

The role of lighting masterplans

When we talk about coordinated lighting in the public realm we now know what we are talking about and why we need it. Or do we? Some refer to such initiatives as ‘lighting master plans’ or ‘a masterplan for the lighting’, a ‘public lighting scheme’, ‘an overall lighting concept’, a ‘lighting plan’, ‘an urban lighting scheme’ or ‘lighting guidelines’. What is the correct term? Perhaps this terminology is overrated at least inasmuch as the terms listed above do not allow any conclusions to be made as to the contents of such a plan. Let us take a closer look.

What should a – to keep things simple, let’s call it a lighting masterplan– consist of? Answer: The fundamentals of how to apply light in public spaces and ideas about how to create a night-time image for a town or city. Not to forget a control-led amount of luminous advertising, because this is part and parcel of …what actually? Atmosphere, way finding, safety, well-being, reducing costs and CO2 emissions, economic growth and providing ways for people to identify with their environment? Whether as an image-promo-ting marketing strategy or a sanitation programme to improve the infrastructure of an urban environment, the idea of a lighting master-plan seems to have caught on. But where exactly? Who is interested in implementing one? People responsible for business development, urban developers, civil engineering and planning offices or public works bodies? It is hard to define who to attribute such projects to, and equally difficult to define a uniform procedure for dealing with the planning process, the scope of work for those involved, and manageable sets of guidelines or Best Practice examples to source as references. Nowadays a lighting masterplan is more than a classic pilot project. Apropos: who creates or compiles a masterplan for lighting? Architects, city planners, lighting designers, electrical engineers or stage designers? It would appear that the idea of alighting masterplan has acquired a status that qualifies it as a desirable, indispensable and plausible planning and communication tool – in spite of, or maybe even because of, the many inconsistencies that surround it. It is time to take a closer look at the status quo and critically review this extremely important, albeit little reflected upon, tool. To pursue such a discussion we need to address both qualitative and quantitative aspects. For practical reasons our observations will be restricted to German towns and cities. After years of desk research on lighting masterplans, this article is also based on a survey carried out in autumn2011 as part of the “Light_Space” research project, in which approximately 4,500 towns and cities is Germany were asked to share their experience and expectations of lighting in the public realm (return rate 16.2 per cent). […]

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The full version of the article can be found in PLD No. 82.

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