Derby Lighting Strategy

Derby, United Kingdom

James Newton

Strategy + Branding

In 2013, we were commissioned to create a lighting strategy for Derby, encompassing the city centre and surrounding areas. The commission included a demonstration project that would act as a catalyst for the wider strategy, and three pilot projects within the city centre.

Drawing upon Derby’s reputation as a city of innovation, we developed a strategy to create a positive image for the city centre after dark. We suggested that excessive light energy from street lighting could be rebalanced and partially redistributed to highlight selected architectural and landscape features. This would improve both the legibility of the city and it’s ambience, so that more people would be encouraged into city areas for evening cultural, social and economic activity.

The choice of light and lighting equipment would also reinforce the distinctive and different characters of the Cathedral Quarter, St. Peters Quarter and Riverside, and support connectivity to outer areas of the city.

We invited a research group from the London School of Economics, ‘Configuring Light’, to study Derby as their pilot project, underlining the important social role that light and darkness play in urban environments. They, along with members of the council and general public, attended our public lighting demonstration where we turned an under-used public square into a kind of theatre set in which a variety of different qualities, quantities and distributions of light could be experienced and compared. Those in attendance experienced first-hand the power of light to alter the appearance of landscape and architectural materials as well as the appearance of each others' faces and skin tones at the flick of a switch. They also gained a more tangible understanding of light metrics such as colour temperature, colour rendering and vertical versus horizontal illuminance, allowing them to see the importance of considering wider aspects of light aside from the horizontal illuminance values stipulated by lighting standards.

The principles of minimising and balancing relative light intensities, introducing human scale and improving the legibility of spaces was carried though into the first pilot project - St. Peter's Cross. Here, the scale and intensity of streetlighting was significantly reduced and St. Peter's Church and churchyard were sensitively lit as important historical landmarks and meeting places. The scheme uses approximately a third of the energy previously used, and has clearly demonstrated that, if carefully distributed and balanced, light levels can be reduced without a space feeling dark or unsafe.

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