Street Lights & The City

"If you build buildings with lights outside, you can make them indefinite, and then when you’re through with using them you shut the lights off and they disappear".

—Andy Warhol (1975)

The mission of urban planning is to create places according to our senses and needs. This is a complex task of arranging elements to fulfill a large number of requirements such as function, climate, aesthetics, architecture, and light.

In urban surroundings, street lighting, along with traffic signals and signs that organize and define the visual environment at night. The night, usually a time of darkness and quiet is slowly occupied by humans. We were able to cross the border of darkness with artificial lighting, offering us a sense of illusion. We are so dependent on the sense of vision that only by extending it into the night do we feel confident in our ability to understand and control our environment.

As we progress into the 21st century, our visual environment at night is increasingly shaped by the dominance of information and communication technologies. Excessive and simultaneous stimulation, especially on the visual level, by street lighting, by images, advertising, and news information, is affecting our perception of urban space during night time. These dark times are increasingly determined by the flood of messages and statements, the denial of the ability to for independent view. Our urban experience, even our memories, is more deeply rooted in images. Today, the street lighting situation in our cities is far from optimal. Street lighting is designed primarily for roads, without respect for the urban environment. The light was adapted for safety and security needs regardless of the urban experience, architecture or pedestrian. There is a feeling of unnecessary and repetitive cop- paste at a fixed distance without any reference. The streetlight mode monotonously neutralizes the urban night experience that a city needs to produce. Without any hierarchical rating, the city looks boring. The way we think about urban planning, architecture, and daytime street user experience is completely gone at night and becomes the needs of drivers. Does the way we illuminate the streets with equal uniformity make us lose the diversity of the city? Instead of using light to emphasize places we choose to illuminate the streets uniformly. Even in terms of energy consumption, do we not put too much effort into lighting the entire street evenly throughout the dark hours with no special purpose or real meaning? Since its invention, electric lighting has had a decisive influence on the psychogeography of urban space. From the first moment of his recognition as an independent phenomenon, electricity was a source of deep wonder. The Romantics quickly identified him with a universal life force, panned in the Frankenstein Mary Shelley's archetypal modern creation scene of 1818, and fueled by no less authority than Goethe's "Soul of the World." A century later, the prospect of electricity literally blinded the industrialized world and inspired both entrepreneurs, artists and revolutionaries with irresistible visions of a dynamic and electric future. The electrification of industry and transport, coupled with the expansion of power grids to public streets and private homes, was one of the key vectors of technological change that betrays industrial modernity from earlier social forms.

"Electricity is the pervading element that accompanies all material existence, even the atmospheric. It is to be thought of unabashedly as the soul of the world". -Goethe (1825)