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Paul James - Editorial Comment

Issue 60 Apr / May 2011

With the commercial viability of ever more energy efficient lighting systems, there is a side of the debate that says we will eventually use more energy, not less, lighting our cities due to the mass take up of lighting projects that will surely ensue.

To counteract this, there is a strong argument that the cities of the future should not be uniformly bright but, with the clever use of sustainable lighting, spaces can be used as pockets of activity to bring communities together for such things as celebration, protest, mourning, networking etc.

With this in mind, there must be dialogue for all parties involved in the planning, design and implementation of sustainable lighting strategies to public spaces. Stakeholders must get involved with the social, economic and ecological aspects of urban lighting in order to mould the development of the city and to ensure that its spaces are future proof.
These ‘Liveable Cities’ (as WE-EF and others have termed them) should, according to multimedia specialists Moment Factory, be lively and enjoyable places to live in based on the Austrian philosopher Ivan Ilich’s concept that humanity must apply ‘tools of conviviality’ designed to positively impact the collective experience. To this end, the Montreal designers have coined the expression ‘Urban Space 2.0’ to convey ‘the theatre of living individual and collective experience, positioned at the epicentre of the convergent cultures of classical architectural lighting plans, dynamic theatrical lighting, and layers of social meaning and content’. To them, the best public spaces must remain flexible and open to diverse uses to create immersive experiences involving the community. They propose interactive public spaces where design meets entertainment technology such as their work at the Quartier des spectacles in Montreal, a long time favourite urban project of mondo*arc.

It is no secret that many architectural lighting designers come from a theatrical background and this experience is increasingly inspiring their work in the public realm. Whilst employed at the theatre, every one of these designers would have needed to devise inventive ways to create drama on a limited budget. And it is this invention that is now coming to the fore in more and more public realm lighting projects - many of which are being rewarded with accolades all over the world.

All the projects covered in this issue feature some form of theatrical lighting technique to create drama; whether it be using a smoke machine in a public square in Sheffield, lasers and water screens on the waterfront in Singapore, dappled darkness in Rotterdam or precise colour washing on a bridge in Abu Dhabi. Not that these projects were done on a shoestring, far from it! But the level of theatrical ingenuity shown in all of them are a joy to behold.

• Talking of inspirational designers with theatrical backgrounds, congratulations are in order to David Atkinson who won the UK Lighting Designer of the Year award last month in London. David’s work has long been admired by us at mondo*arc and we have covered many of his projects on these pages. It couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke!



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