Bath Lighting Strategy

Bath, United Kingdom


Landscape Architect
Landscape Projects

Gehl Architects

Architecture + Research
Research Design Architecture


Public Art + Animation
Working Parts

Strategy + Branding

The City of Bath holds the prestigious status of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site - making it one of just two such cities in Europe. The physical fabric of the city is listed and provides Bath with its unique and celebrated character, which has helped it to become a major international tourist attraction. When night falls, the perception of the city's atmosphere and character is heavily influenced by artificial light. The legibility of the city and the visual hierarchy of buildings and spaces within it are defined by a complex mix of public and private lighting.

We were invited by the city to develop a lighting strategy for the public realm that would help to enhance the city's character and boost its night-time economy. We provided a philosophy that encourages a tailored, site-specific use of new technologies, celebrating Bath's quirks while reinforcing its protected historic status.

Working alongside architectural historians and landscape architects, we undertook extensive research into the history and evolution of public life and light in Bath's ever changing, multi-layered, after-dark cityscape.

The strategy considered darkness as much as light – looking at areas where this should be preserved or restored. Carefully balancing low light levels and relative darkness helps to enhance the historic atmosphere and provides the context against which even small amounts of natural and electric light can be registered and appreciated. This strategy offers many benefits: allowing the city to implement a hierarchy of lit landmarks to improve its nighttime legibility whilst minimising energy use, helping to protect ecology, and safeguarding residents' privacy and well-being.

Like many cities, the after-dark character of Bath is heavily influenced by a hugely varied palette of privately-owned light, much of which serves to enhance the rich visual experience of the streets and spaces. We sought to retain this diversity, but encouraged tenants to make sure theirs was a positive, visually balanced contribution to the lit historic streetscape. We also proposed to reinforce a series of more formal walking routes between historic architectural 'set pieces', with a consistent, tailored quality of light to unify the city centre. By bringing out the specific warm colours of the Bath stone, the lighting would contribute to a distinctive, welcoming atmosphere for all the various visitors and residents.

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