THE MAYOR of London Sadiq Khan has come under fire for ignoring the importance of lighting in his blueprint for the future of the city.
The draft London Plan – which sets out the strategy and policies for the capital’s growth over the next 25 years – contains only six mentions of lighting in its 526 pages.
These address security, sports lighting and light pollution – and not its potential to enhance the urban environment at night.
‘London desperately needs a coherent approach to lighting that enshrines the best of current guidance and legislation but that also acknowledges the primacy of the people who use, inhabit and encounter the city at night,’ the lighting director of top London architectural practice BDP, Mark Ridler, has written in an open letter to Khan.
‘It should draw upon current exemplar projects and extend this deployment to the places where ordinary Londoners live. This way excellence will not only be available to prestigious well-funded projects but also to the places where all of us live, irrespective of age, race, income, and disability, and to the journeys and spaces that connect us.
‘Just as London is growing inexorably, it is fast becoming a 24 hour society. For precisely half the year London is perceived, used and experienced at night. Lighting facilitates the night time economy but also the lives of those who work and travel at night supporting the wider economy.
‘So how we light the city is increasingly important for all those planning, managing, designing and constructing the future city. The current policies, where they exist, are too fragmented by borough and too concerned with vehicles and their conflict with pedestrians’.
Ridler has identified three major drivers for change in London: sustainability, driverless vehicles and Smart Cities.
‘There’s an imperative to reduce emissions whilst maintaining growth. Energy efficient lighting is key, but it should also consider the role of darkness. There’s growing evidence that humans need recourse to darkness for health. Our ecology needs darkness. Our skies need darkness.
‘Just as the city has green lungs, it also needs dark lungs. Light is a precious resource that requires intelligent design ensuring deployment in the right place, in the right quantity and at the right time’.
On driverless vehicles, Ridler believes the advent of the technology will revolutionise the design of cities and the way they are lit. ‘Almost all of the codes that drive the engineering of urban light are written to best avoid conflict between vehicles and people. As vehicles cease to be guided by people, they will rely less on visible light to sense and avoid people.
‘The imperative will change to facilitate human activity, how people perceive and feel about their environment and crucially how they interact with each other. This is major opportunity to create night spaces of social cohesion.
There is much talk of the Internet of Things but the consensus of implementation is only slowly emerging. In its essence, it is fixed and mobile assets, such as people as vehicles, talking and sharing.
‘For an exponential technology there is no possibility to predict the future use, but we need to establish a sensor and data infrastructure that allows the creativity of our city to evolve and produce the promised benefits. Just as sewers, rail and roads have previously facilitated growth, data infrastructure is key to good’ growth in our century.
‘Streetlights are significant because of their ubiquity, and electrification but all councils are struggling to solve challenges of investment and monetisation. The Mayoral office is ideally placed to create partnerships and enable solutions.
‘Lighting is too important to be consigned to the margins of planning policy. I urge those with influence in policy making to move this essential element of our city life and health further up the agenda’.
Main image: Shutterstock. Panel image courtesy Sadiq Khan MP. Remaining pics: BDP