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Rue Robert de Flers, Paris, France

Issue 80 August / September 2014 : Architecture : Transport

Lighting Design: CONCEPTO

The Rue Robert de Flers was a demure street in the most demure of Parisian neighborhoods, the 15th arrondissement. Roger Narboni’s Concepto Studio were commissioned to create a lighting scheme that would reinvent the neglected crosscut, developing, in assistance with LEC Lyon, an innovative lighting arrangement based upon biological rhythms.

The 15th arrondissement in Paris, in comparison with its bejeweled compatriots in other parts of the city, is something of a cultural wasteland. It has its defenders, some people even call it meditative, the residential and office blocks passing by in an unending grey smudge as you drive around the area in a taxi, the repetition lulling you into a suburban slumber.

The Rue Robert de Flers is a covered road and walkway that can be found in a wealthy portion of the 15th, running alongside the River Seine towards Beaugrenelle, a new shopping centre, the opening of which the new lighting was timed to coincide with. The grey, unremarkable street makes a particularly unfitting monument to de Flers, one of France’s most lively playwrights.

As part of the area’s renovation, the walkway was given a much needed facelift last year, with a new up-lighting scheme being developed to light the tunnel.

Roger Narboni’s Concepto lighting studio, fresh from developing a lighting scheme for the Tour Eqho in Paris’s La Défense, were commissioned to create the new scheme, while LEC Lyon provided the necessary technology.

Concepto developed a lighting scheme based on the human biological rhythm, the lighting adapting its intensity and colours to suit the time of day, making the tunnel less jarring for those who use it.

The design agency carried out a number of on-site tests to further research the use of colour and to define the best colours to use on the project.

In the morning the tunnel is lit in sky blue, a colour chosen because it helps to stimulate the phases of awakening the body goes through after a good night’s sleep.

The transition from sleep to wakefulness entails reduced awareness and performance, or sleep inertia as it is termed, which can differ in its effect depending on how abruptly a person wakes up. Studies into sleep inertia have suggested that exposure to blue enhanced white light after sleep can speed up the body’s recovery.

During the evening the tunnel is up-lighted in a warm white colour because of the warm and relaxing atmosphere it encourages. The colour transition from sky blue to warm white is subtle and gradual, a transition that is enabled by the use of a DMX control system.

“This is the first time that we have acheived  this type of lighting,” says Floerence Serre from the Concepto agency, “the lighting outlines the stages of the day and the lighting develops from a stimulating light first thing in the morning, to a warm light in the evening.”

LEC Lyon, working in cooperation with Concepto, decided that their LED lightbar technology would be the best luminaire to deal with the different demands the project placed on the lighting, due to their ability to allow the emission of multiple colours from a relatively small fixture.

The LEC Ligny-5635 lightbar was equipped and installed with a bespoke colour profile, customised in green, blue and warm white, as opposed to the standard RGB colour palette. The lightbar was also created to emit an extensive beam of light, guaranteeing homogeneous colours.

“We used the LED lightbars because they could easily be adjusted in length,” commented Virginie Carreno from the Concepto agency. “They allowed for an accurate lighting outcome and smooth colour alternatives and their long-lasting life of at least 15 years also acted in their favour.”

The lightbars were manufactured in multiple sizes in order to fit the layout plan of the concrete structure. The bars were also engineered to provide genuine lighting integration, ensuring that the luminaires remain invisible to people passing through the tunnel, this was achieved by positioning the equipment behind aluminum covers.

Schreder also developed a suspended luminaire especially for the project. The fixture is a declination of the Phylos pedestrian luminous column range that Roger Narboni designed for Schreder some years ago and the fixtures have been placed on both sides of the street in front of the residential buildings. They were designed to create a lounge style ambiance on the street and were an alternative to proposing a more basic blend of functional pedestrian lighting.

“Residents have seen their neighbourhood change instantly,” says Karine Bonnefoy, the official responsible for roads in the 7th and 15th districts at the Ville de Paris. “Prior to this project residents simply did not want to use the street, so the feedback from this project has been very positive, especially given that the lighting was unveiled to coincide with the opening of the new shopping centre. District officials now want to apply the lighting scheme to the rest of the street. Nothing has been signed yet, but we are optimistic that we will be able to extend this type of lighting elsewhere in the city.”

The history of Paris is one of continuous reinvention and revision and the updating of Rue Robert de Flers is a compact mirroring of this story.

The unimpressive road, once avoided by residents rather than enjoyed, now has a refreshed feel and a talking point lighting scheme to boot. If the city authorities carry on like this then the 15th arrondissement could well become a by-word for civic surprise rather than suburban practicality.


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