Insight | Urban Environments: Light and darkness in the city

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We need artificial light as a society, both to support our economy and contribute to our quality of life. But how do we balance its use with the environmental impact that it creates? By appreciating the value of darkness and treating light as a precious commodity, we can help to reduce energy use, light pollution, ecological damage and electronic waste, whilst continuing to create great places for people after dark.

The role of light and darkness in the urban environment is an area where we as lighting designers bring a considerable amount of value both to our clients and to society. How we choose to illuminate public space is intrinsically connected to the way people experience a place and how they use it. Working within this growing and important area of urban design is a not only a privilege but also a responsibility. 

Many cities are badly lit. It’s not just about feeling safe or avoiding crime, the visual environment after dark is often underwhelming, illegible and in some cases can feel quite hostile. When we approach the illumination of urban spaces, we put the emphasis first on how we want the city to feel at night and then we consider how we can achieve that. 

Working to balance the addition of light with retaining darkness and degrees of shade allows us to craft an exciting new visual reinterpretation of the city. By carefully choosing what we will reveal and what we will not, we make the city more legible, enhancing wayfinding and orientation and contributing to an improved sense of security and confidence for all those who use it, whether they are city-dwellers, workers, shoppers or tourists.