A third of people on this planet can no longer see the Milky Way. A recent study has concluded that for a third of the inhabitants of earth, ambient and constant light pollution has eclipsed the night sky to the extent that the galaxy we live in can no longer be seen.
It wouldn’t necessarily have occurred to me that this an important thing for humans but, in fact, it is a big deal. Scientists are calling it an unprecedented cultural loss.
Bright areas show parts of earth where the night sky is no longer visible. Image from Guardian UK / University of Colorado.
Up to the age of 19 I lived in a small Canadian town where the stars were constantly present. Since that time I’ve lived in major North American metropolises including Chicago, Washington DC, and Toronto where connection to the night sky basically included the moon and not much else. I have to say that the difference is significant and being able to see the night sky changes your perception of you place in the world. Today I live in Ottawa, a smaller city, where still we have quite a bit of light pollution. I really miss that sense of wonder that goes along with staring up at a truly dark night sky with planets, stars, and yes, the Milky Way easily apparent to the naked eye.
As cities change over it LED for lighting buildings and streets, we have an opportunity to change the way we do things and protect the night sky. For consideration.
It’s always impressive how much can be done to improve dreary urban infrastructure with a good lighting project. Dutch artist Herman Kuijer has been commissioned by Holland’s ProRail together with the City of Zutphen, these two underpasses have been beautifully transformed into art.
Urban Illumination has been a key interest lately in the blog, because I have th honour of working on the NCC’s Capital Illumination Plan.
Photos from Wallpaper magazine.
What do people imagine when they think about Quebec City? How about other cities? I’m not basing this on anything scientific but I feel like Qubec has become, among many other things, a night City. That provincial capital has been working on and advertising their ‘night scape’ for many years and I think the result is that night time in that city has been imprinted into people’s consciousness as a great and wonderful thing. They’ve built on their image as a place tourists want to visit very successfully with this initiative.
Here in Ottawa inspired by Quebec and other cities, we’ve begun work on a similar project, and I’m very pleased that my colleague Miriam MacNeil, and I, together with Véronique Koulouris, of the Commisssion de la Capitale Nationale de Québec have had our proposal accepted to present work on these capital enhancing lighting projects. The working title of our presentation is “l’urbanisme lumière comme util de mise en valeur d’une capitale”, or “illumination planning as a tool for adding value to a capital” and it will be featured at the Accent on Planning Conference in Quebec City this summer, July 5-8.
I hope some readers will be there. Would be great to have some personal feedback.
Quebec City by night. Photo by Roman Marutov on 500px.
There are a host of reasons why it’s a good time to be an artist that works with light on an urban scale. New technologies mean that these art pieces are increasingly interactive and controllable. Add to that the facts that cities are becoming more interested in having coherent night time illumination and that lighting is becoming less costly from an electricity point of view. The sum is that urban scale lighting installations are getting very interesting.
In a previous post on this topic I talked about a project in New York by artist architect Jamie Carpenter and here I’m highlighting another similarly excellent one by him, this time in Toronto. Titled Lake Light Threshold, this installation adds an ethereal experience for users of a pedestrian bridge. Find a very well produced video showcasing the work here.
Photos are stills from the video.
Another project that shows a light artist working at an urban scale is Articulated Intersect by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. Here participants use levers to control light sources and create moving geometrical light patterns.
Photo from www.lozano-hemmer.com.