Text: Roger Narboni
Photos / Graphics: Concepto

03. Aug 2013

A framework of darkness
Lighting master plan for the City of Rennes/F

In 2009, Rennes City Council launched a climate action plan, principally aimed at a 20 per cent reduction in the electricity consumed for public lighting by 2030. However, a lighting master plan was required in order to introduce a new public lighting strategy. In the brief for the consultation stage, the City Council were looking for lighting designers to investigate the opportunities for lighting or not lighting certain parts of the city.

As the winners of the consultation stage, we used the concept of light/dark as the cornerstone of our study, proposing a new lighting strategy for Rennes based on a plan to save and preserve darkness coupled with the creation of a framework of blackness that could be implemented over the city as a whole.

Since 1987, when we launched the idea of light urbanism as a form of town planning and developed a methodology for lighting master planning, we have undertaken more than 110 studies of this type. In doing so, we naturally began a gradual process of considering the possible links between light and darkness in cities.

In 2002, while designing the lighting master plan for the village of Talmont-sur-Gironde in south-west France, we created and implemented a darkness master plan for the village as a whole, to preserve but redefine the simplicity of the atmosphere in the narrow streets at night.

More recently, in 2010 while developing a lighting master plan for the historical centre of Jerusalem, we very quickly suggested to the client that we might redefine, preserve and improve the darkness in the green belt being developed around the old part of town to create an area of blackness that, by contrast, would enhance the future illumination of the town walls.

In Rennes, we have continued and developed this darkness-based “less is more” approach by looking in greater depth at our theory of the respective roles of light and darkness in towns. From the beginning of our study, and during discussions and exploratory night-time walks with local people in various districts in Rennes, we were struck by the number of times they drew attention to the excess lighting in the city and by their wish to preserve darkness in large expanses of the natural open spaces. […]

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The full version of the article can be found in PLD No. 89.

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