Turn the Lights on

As any lighting designer will tell you, lighting shapes how we perceive spaces. Think of whether you will walk down a street or not, visit a place again or not, or think a place is significant or not. City streets with burnt-out street lamps may make you pause while well-lit ones encourage you to move through them. Joyfully-lit locations that use rich colors invite crowds, revelry, while boring ones don’t inspire us to return. Monuments in any country’s capital city are always bathed in carefully-planned lights, demonstrating their value. Lighting can scare or depress us or lift our spirits.

A French landscape architecture firm, Exit Paysagistes Associés, took a scary street tunnel through Avenue de la République in Sartrouville, France, and turned it into a lively, sophisticated pedestrian path. In Landezine, they write: “The tunnel’s envelope made of stamped stainless sheet steel adopts the light variations of the city and establishes a lightning continuity from the street to the tunnel.” The smooth surfaces and vibrant lighting scheme, which bounce off of the “sparkling asphalt,” create a contrast with the dark exterior facade of the tunnel.

Dark, long interior pathways can also be turned into thrill rides. In Washington, D.C. light artist Leo Villareal transformed the passageway between the east and west wings of the National Gallery into a rollicking trip called Multiverse. Lights flutter back and forth, moving through a set of sequences set by custom software. Comprised of 41,000 computer-programmed LEDs, the 200-foot long space, which used to be something to rush through, is now one of the highlights of the visit to the gallery. See a video below as well:

At Rice University, an underused quadrangle was transformed by the Office of James Burnett, a landscape architecture firm, into a “center of student activity on campus.” While the elegant space is filled with students and professors by day, it’s assumed that traffic would fall off at night. Not so: a subtle lighting design was created by Fisher Marantz Stone to make the moveable chairs warm and welcoming even in the Texan evenings.

Lastly, a courtyard shows how private residential spaces can also be reinvented through lighting combined with interior-lit furniture. The Court Square Press Courtyard in Boston, which is nestled in a building set in a neighborhood defined as a “post-industrial void,” comes alive at night with light box benches placed in a constructed forest. The landscape architects, Landworks Studios, Inc, write: “Similar to a camp fire experience, people gather around the lighted benches to converse, story tell, and linger in the illuminated bamboo forest.”

Image credits: (1-2) Exit Paysagistes Associés / Landezine, (3) Multiverse / bac_610. Flickr, (4-5) The Brochstein Pavilion at Rice University / Paul Hester, (6-7) Court Square Press Courtyard /Landworks Studios, Inc.

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