Text: Eduardo Gonçalves
Photos: Martine Doyon, Tony Oursler

05. Apr 2012

Lighting design – new paradigms for urban spaces and their users

The recognition that urban space is complex and consists of many typologies means that a research study on the topic needs to be well defined. The research will focus on urban centres, and specifically on pedestrian spaces with or without slow-moving traffic. The main objective is to develop a model which can support the practice of a more holistic approach to lighting design in urban spaces in order to understand how designed lighting can contribute to sustainable town planning. This article shares Eduardo Gonçalves’s vision, describes the focus of the research study, its objectives, a proposed methodology, and what resources are required.

Urban space is not just a physical structure. It is a product of historical evolution, a set of experiences of citizens who, over time, have created, used and transformed it, and it should be characterized by all the people that use it, and by inherent social activities and the buildings that facilitate them. Social dynamics, from the economic to the cultural, have cyclical characteristics that are linked to nature’s cycles, like day and night. Current lighting systems generally do not have the ability to respond to these social changes.
It is acknowledged that modern-day society comprises a working day plus night life, and ur-ban planning is also expected to respond to this trend. As a consequence we need to redesign our urban environments and apply new concepts and approaches. The controlled use of light is essential as a visual hierarchy tool to shape urban space at night: “The key concern is nuances of light, its presence in streets and squares in a relative sense”. Despite the fundamental role of technology in today’s society, it is recognised that some human problems cannot be solved purely through a technological approach that ignores user-related issues.
It is impossible to ignore that the advent of the digital era represents a giant leap in many areas. It can be defined in one word: flexibility. Lighting design can benefit enormously on both a conceptual and technological level, learning from the development of other design practices. Today, the most common lighting systems are “on/off” at pre-determined schedules or at best determined by the use of light sensors. The use of these systems on an urban scale is dependent on or related to the local initiatives of city councils or energy suppliers. […]

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

Ph.D. Supervisors

Prof.ª PhD Ana Margarida Gomes Ferreira –
IADE Lisbon
Prof. PhD Henri Christiaans – TU Delft

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