The public space needs demanding lighting systems - and not just a bright light.

Modular through the night

People need the right light at the right time. And that means outside, too. Which is why “human-scale lighting” is shaping the most interesting developments in outdoor luminaires.
by Franziska Eidner | 1/20/2017

Streets, squares, façades, large areas and architectural details – lighting has a whole raft of tasks to perform in outdoor urban spaces. Light accentuates buildings and places, creates atmospheres and moods, and provides orientation. It gives us a feeling of safety or unease, is able to amaze us. Yet it is also, in the over-illuminated age of light-polluted 24-hour cities, a source of annoyance, or rather, it requires a rethink. There have long been initiatives calling for light pollution to be reduced significantly. There is a drive to avoid wasted coverage (scattering loss) and adjust illumination intensity to the requirements of the location and time of day or night. Less is (here too) sometimes more.

Even 200 years ago, when in Europe’s major cities streetlamps were increasingly introduced across the board, light did not just have fans. Every streetlamp was reprehensible, one writer ranted in the Cologne newspaper Kölnische Zeitung in 1819. “Street lighting contributes to a worsening morality,” the article went on to say. The artificial brightness dispels people’s fear of the dark, it continued, which for its part prevents the weak from committing various sins. 

The new modular LED outdoor lighting system "Nightsight" by Ben van Berkel (UN Studio) offers the opportunity to brighten up outdoor areas and buildings with well thought-out lighting concepts adjusted to suit the needs of people.

Here the arguments were directed against the introduction of oil-operated street lighting which, compared to the gleaming, bright light of the electric arc lamps that started emerging around the end of the 19th century in urban spaces, produced only a small, dim light. “Our illumination is magnificent, appealing and totally silent, yet too bright despite matte panes in the streetlamps,” noted technological pioneer and innovator Werner von Siemens regretfully as early as 1882 on observing an electrified Leipziger Strasse in Berlin.

Choreographed lighting

Simply bright was not sufficient then, and still isn’t today. Lighting must be capable of more than that: It should adapt to the changing needs of its users and their biorhythms, adjust the different configurations of luminosity and light color depending on the time of day. Meaning, a people-oriented artificial light, or “human-scale lighting.” Austrian luminaire manufacturer Zumtobel is increasingly gearing its product portfolio to this new idea and offers both adaptive and interactive solutions based on the dynamic potential of natural light.

Recently Zumtobel has presented numerous new solutions in this area for interior spaces, from the office luminaire “Mildes Licht,” now in the sixth generation, to the target-group-specific store lighting system “Limbic Lighting.” “Active Light,” which is geared to user needs as they change depending on the time of day and application area, is the name the company has given this developmental track – and it is now also taking into the field of outdoor lighting with new systems such as “Nightsight” as well as already established tools like the “Supersystem Outdoor.”

For indeed, today new adaptive LED systems can be used to not only regulate brightness, but also complete a range of lighting tasks. With “Supersystem” and “Nightsight” for instance planners have the option to create individual lighting choreographies for all kinds of outdoor situations that are able to change with the requirements of the light and activity in a particular place from dusk through the night until sunrise. The Zumtobel portfolio is based on intelligent modules that can be individually controlled, regulated and adjusted.

The minimalist design language of the product delivers high visual quality without taking centre stage, so that both the architecture of the “island bridge” and the sculpture in the centre can be fully appreciated.
It is primarily the linear alignment of spaces that is characteristic of the village and is emphasised through the new lighting solution: the main street, which is pleasantly illuminated in the way of an esplanade, the house façades and the river.

Whereas conventional post luminaire systems, for example, only illuminate paths and streets horizontally with a uniform luminosity, modular solutions offer far more possibilities for variation. They can be mounted on façades, individually directed and regulated in terms of light color and intensity. Zumtobel realized exemplary lighting scenarios for instance for the Swiss community of Bürchen (Link) and in Lech, Austria, in the latter case with custom solutions that spawned the standard product “Supersystem outdoor.”

A super system

In Lech am Arlberg Zumtobel lighting planner Dieter Bartenbach develop a modular system for the new street lighting where the light intensity of the LEDs is distributed across from six to as many as 34 LED points, realized by Zumtobel. This means that light can be positioned far more precisely and glare avoided. Moreover, a wireless sensor is integrated in each luminaire that can be used to dim and operate the light. Thanks to the flexible direction, the lighting can be used to shape the space to a greater degree.

The river of the same name is reintegrated into the townscape by the new lighting system.

Thus now the river, being illuminated from the banks and wall surfaces, is a definitive element of the night-time landscape, inviting both tourists and residents to take a stroll. In addition, because the modules can be affixed not only to masts, but also to façades, the lighting accentuates individual buildings. It was this option that particularly impressed the local hoteliers co-financing the project. 

Dornbirn had completely different requirements. Here “Supersystem outdoor,” a minimalistic lighting solution, provides homogeneous illumination over an extensive area for a new bridge. The lighting system was developed in cooperation with architect Hugo Dowrzak and urban planner Stefan Burtscher.

The key challenge for the lighting solution was to ensure a uniform illumination that covered the total area and complied fully with the relevant standards for road transport, cycle paths and pedestrian crossings.

Merely two lighting masts evenly illuminate the four-lane bridge measuring 37.5 meters wide and 32.5 meters long together with walkways and cycle lanes. Thirteen luminaires are integrated in each of the masts, with each luminaire consisting of 18 LED light tubes. These can be directed specifically on particular parts of the bridge. This system ensures maximum visual comfort free of glare for all road users and is moreover, with 43 watts per luminaire (560 watts per mast), highly energy efficient. 

Designing the night with UN Studio

Zumtobel’s latest lighting solution for outdoor urban spaces goes by the name of “Nightsight.” The system was developed and designed together with UN Studio. The Zumtobel team of developers and designers headed by Ben van Berkel sought to realize highly diverse site- and user-specific lighting concepts with an adaptable and uniformly designed lighting solution. “Nightsight” is able to illuminate both vertical and horizontal surfaces as well as accentuate even minute details. Spaces are structured by means of the targeted use of light and shadow. “Empty spaces are transformed into lively places,” is how Ben van Berkel and Zumtobel describe the product’s formative capabilities.

To this end the system offers two different types of luminaire: Details can be effectively accentuated with the Projector luminaire with so-called “darkBeam” look. The honeycomb structure, in which the recessed LEDs with their projection lenses are arranged, reduces glare and prevents a view of the light source from the side. The Area luminaire with “softGlow” look in contrast is particularly suited to illuminating plazas and walkways. An additional vertical light component offers visual orientation and makes it easier for the eye to adjust to the level of brightness. The system is available in different versions with 3000 Kelvin and 4000 Kelvin and offers any number of dimming and regulation options. With all these possibilities and scope, Werner von Siemens would surely have liked it, too.