Awards Finalists

Urban Lighting for People

Evidence-based lighting design for the built environment
Navaz Davoudian (ed.)

Urban Lighting is an impressive multi-disciplinary collaboration between researchers from five universities and practicing lighting designers. They bring their experience of large-scale high-profile masterplans and public realm projects such as the Olympics and King’s Cross, and of generating innovative exploratory research. The book aims to exemplify an evidence-based approach to design. The contributors include designers from engineers Arup known for ‘total design’, where specialist knowledge is fully integrated in design processes.

The book can add depth to an urban designer’s knowledge of the subject of lighting and aims to extend the application of established urban design theory. The team identifies urban lighting as part of the ‘critical infrastructure of everyday life and interaction’. The approach is distinctive in its combination of behavioural, psychophysical and technical methodologies, demonstrating the range of knowledge that can inform design. The book is structured in three parts and seven chapters, each chapter amplified with case studies and concluded with key learning points. The parts cover night, city, society, exploring the night city and postproject evaluation.

Chapter 1 focuses on the social study of urban lighting referring to the work of Kevin Lynch and Jan Gehl and their observation of the social experiences of place, noting that their work could almost be said to be ‘untouched by night’, a time when concerns about risk and safety, health, well-being and pleasure come to the fore. They explain why we should consider how to focus light on use, rather than buildings, and highlight how social research enables designers to understand complex civic spaces and how diversity and social practices shape place identity.

Good lighting can only become more important in the future, especially in giving older people (who will make up 30 per cent of the population by 2039) the confidence to go out after dark. The book is a celebration of lighting design and how, when well done, it can deliver nocturnal city beautification by using colour temperatures and brightness. The authors recommend that masterplan design teams work with lighting designers early in the design process. King’s Cross is a case study used to demonstrate how a distinctive and responsive lighting strategy can render a series of places that are safe, unique and environmentally-friendly.

The chapter on the night city aims to extend Lynch’s The Image of The City for the night-time. Lighting can highlight landmarks, illuminate paths and add to visual character, working with how people’s cognitive maps change at night. Case study comparisons demonstrate how people interact with three London public spaces night and day, evidencing the role of lighting to provide reassurance, extend uses and enhance the night-time experience. The last section is devoted to post-occupancy evaluation, stressing the importance of closed loop design. Ten case studies, masterplans, public spaces, bridges and viaducts explore the relationship between design processes and outcomes.

The book emphasises throughout that lighting design is not just about devising a technical solution but is a creative practice. Successful projects should have a ‘strong, simple and unique lighting concept’ that relates to context. Design standards are a starting point but not a design guide. A strong narrative should inform a design framework captured in night-time plans.

Urban Lighting for People Publication Urban Design Group
RIBA Publishing
Reviewed By
Juliet Bidgood, architect and urban designer, director at the design and communication studio – Neat and a CABE Enabler