Research starts on plan to relight post-Covid London

Two views of Saint Paul's Cathedral with different lighting.
At a trial installation in Peter’s Hill (left – before, right – after), the scale of the lighting and the overall number of fittings were reduced, introducing lighting at ground level in handrails as well as warmer, lower lighting levels, to create a calmer and more welcoming space. Credit: City of London Corporation

RESEARCH has begun on an ambitious plan to rethink the lighting of London for a post-pandemic world. 

The project – organised by the Centre for London – is exploring how London could better use lighting to create an even more attractive and sustainable city at night.

As part of the City Lighting Strategy, a number of locations have been identified to deliver fundamental change to the look and feel. 

At a trial installation in Peter’s Hill, the scale of the lighting and the overall number of fittings were reduced, introducing lighting at ground level in handrails as well as warmer, lower lighting levels, to create a calmer and more welcoming space. 

The Centre for London says that as cities emerge from the coronavirus crisis, public spaces will be in the spotlight. 

‘Preventing the spread of the virus will mean spending more time outdoors when meeting others as we head into autumn. 

‘This is a chance to review how London is lit and to enhance its attractiveness, making it an even more enjoyable place to be’.

Centre for London’s new research project, Lighting London , will explore how councils, developers and landlords can make the capital’s streets and public spaces more inviting and interesting at night, while reducing the city’s carbon footprint. 

Lighting is one of the most overlooked aspects of urban design, says the Centre for London.

For the most part, it says city authorities have historically taken a narrowly utilitarian approach, looking to lighting to makes roads and streets brighter, but with little thought for creative or environmental dimensions of light. 

‘The same is true for our homes and workplaces: buildings are too often illuminated in isolation from each other or in competition to out-shine their neighbours.’

The research is designed to build on the Illuminated River project which is lighting up central London’s Thames bridges in a new public artwork, the City of London’s lighting strategy, as well as the recommendations from City Hall’s Night-Time Commission. 

It will explore how light and darkness affect the lives of different groups of Londoners, how to use lighting more sustainably, and what it would take for London to become the best lit major city in the world. 

The final report will be published in winter and will make recommendations to help City Hall, London’s boroughs, developers and building owners to develop a stronger and more coordinated city-wide approach to lighting, and better light their buildings and spaces. 

Ben Rogers, Founding Director of Centre for London told Lux: ‘Relatively little thought goes into the way London looks and feels at night. 

‘Yet lighting has a huge impact on us, on our evening and night-time activities, on people who work at night, and even inside our homes from streetlights. 

‘With Londoners set to spend more time outside than ever as we head into autumn, now is an exciting opportunity to help policymakers develop a stronger and coordinated city-wide approach to lighting.’ 

Sarah Gaventa, director of the Illuminated River Foundation said:
‘Whilst researching the high luminance levels and light pollution along the banks of the Thames for our own Illuminated River project we were struck by the lack of both information and a coordinated approach to sustainably lighting our city. 

‘We felt there was an opportunity to bring together those with responsibilities, expertise and interests in this area to look at how we might collaborate and share our learning to create a more attractive sustainable and safe nightscape for London and approached Centre for London to develop a project. 

Amy Lamé, the capital’s ‘Night Czar’ said: ‘Lighting is essential for London to thrive as a 24-hour city, and it’s more important than ever that we ensure our outdoor spaces and public walkways are lit safely and well. 

‘I am pleased Centre for London has been inspired by the recommendations from the Mayor’s Night-Time Commission, and the Greater London Authority is proud to be a partner in this vital research. 

‘London’s economy at night has a crucial role to play in our recovery, and we need to ensure London remains the best city in the world after dark.’ 

Carolyn Dwyer, director of the Built Environment at the City of London Corporation, said: ‘The City of London Corporation is taking a number of steps to realise our vision of a 24/7 destination and we are delighted to be part of this revolutionary ‘Lighting London’ research. 

‘By exploring how all parties can work together to light our streets in a more sustainable way, we can further improve upon the safe, welcoming and accessible spaces that the Square Mile offers, while celebrating our rich heritage, culture and architecture around the clock. 

‘This opportunity aligns with our vision developed in the City Lighting Strategy to take advantage of emerging technology to enhance what it feels like to live, work and visit the City at night.’