Do lighting professionals put buildings before people?

How we can light for people, not buildings? That’s the deceptively simple question that will be addressed by a special panel of experts at LuxLive 2016.

Dubbed the Social Lighting Summit, the session explores an area of contention in the lighting design community, often tasked with ‘beautifying’ the urban public realm which can be in conflict with lighting for people.

It will bring together a panel of designers, urbanists, architects and campaigners to explore the strategies and techniques to democratise lighting design and bring its benefits to all. Urban spaces increasingly require unique, creative approaches to place-making where the lighting places a key role in social inclusion and opportunities for interaction. We explore some distinct treatments with non-uniformity, colour, dynamism, interactivity and local references.

The addition of the Social Lighting Summit couldn’t be more timely; It follows recent research which shows that the way that urban spaces are lit reinforce the increasing levels of inequality faced by cities says a new report by scientists based at the London School of Economics.

According to the research, the over-illumination of social housing estates –  to allow for better CCTV surveillance and the prevention of anti-social behaviour and crime –  mark some spaces out as less valuable and even threatening or risky, deterring people from using and enjoying these spaces. In contrast, in more affluent neighbourhoods or expensive designer developments, light is used as a design tool to create an aesthetically pleasurable nightscape which appears valuable, safer and more inviting.

Dr Don Slater, associate professor of Sociology at LSE and co-founder of the Configuring Light project, says: ‘While not all urban spaces need highly aestheticised lighting schemes, good lighting design can help build social inclusion and civic life across urban spaces and create places that are engaging, accessible and comfortable for everyone who shares them.’

The lighting can often cause housing estates to look disconnected from the urban areas around them. The report recommends that lighting needs should be fully recognised as a strategic part of urban policy and planning and designed with all users and uses of spaces in mind – including those that may be marginalised or excluded.

* The Social Lighting Summit takes place at 4.50pm on Wednesday 23 November in the lightspace dot london arena. 

* Don Slater of The London School of Economics and Political Science and Joanne Entwistle of King’s College will  present findings from their Configuring Light research and discuss lighting’s role in class division and how social research can play a part in effective lighting at 11am on Thursday 24 November in the Tech Theatre 2 at LuxLive, co-located with lightspace do london