During the first half of 2020, much of the world put everyday life on hold and went into lockdown. While quarantine measures varied greatly from country to country, virtually all of them led to people exploring areas close to home as they walked or cycled for their daily exercise. City dwellers in particular took advantage of local parks, using urban green spaces in ways, and at times, that they’d never considered before.
How can cities continue this trend and ensure that parks flourish as the world adjusts to the new normal?
Even before the pandemic, cities were realising that parks and green spaces were underused. Paris has opened some of its major parks 24 hours a day since 2016, to offer respite from the summer heat. Cities like Seoul have long recognised the value of night-time life in green spaces. To make the most of parks, squares and urban forests, lighting can be a wise investment - particularly in cities where evening comes early in winter, or high population density means many people rely on parks for time outside.
Creating Spaces, Telling Stories
As cities look to preserve the positives of lockdown - improved air quality, greater cycle use and parks’ new role as a social hub, that means a rethink of how we use this space.
In terms of park lighting, I would like to see the use of light as a more creative medium that also touches on functions like social distancing. Light creates boundaries - it’s an ephemeral, yet effective, tool to create spaces, and define sensibility and atmospheres.
The renowned lighting designer is director of the International Nighttime Design Initiative, a research institute and the NightSeeing™ programme, which engages citizens and city stakeholders to raise awareness of light and shadow, for city nighttime environments.
Balanced design creates distinct light patterns for a wide diversity of spaces, such as conservation areas for wildlife, zones for sporting activities and romantic hideaways, as well as marking paths and hazards clearly.
All the different kinds of activities you want to have in a park can be underscored and encouraged by LED light source conversion and smart, enabling lighting controls. Light as a placemaking tool makes spaces through gradients and colours of light, it makes boundaries distinct.
Lighting Parks, Winning Prizes
The city of Swidnica in Poland is home to the Church of Peace, one of the largest timber-framed Baroque ecclesiastical buildings in Europe, which is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Keen to make more of its green spaces, in 2017 the city invested in new lighting for the 100-year-old Central Park, transforming it into a vibrant community focused open space with scenic promenades, play spaces and relaxation zones.
As part of the renovation, it was essential that the park was a safe and welcoming public space after sunset. Schréder drew up a holistic design which respects regulations while creating different areas for diverse activities. That makes navigating the park easier and avoids a ‘blanket’ approach for the large landscaped space.
The Pilzeo luminaire lights all the main pathways: installed on brown tapered columns, they discreetly integrate the natural setting to deliver soft, white light. This makes colours clear, enhancing people’s feeling of safety while removing the light pollution and light spill that caused by old fixtures.
And for a neat placemaking touch, the pergolas in the park are illuminated by Terra Midi and Trasso floodlights, creating cosy spaces to escape the city buzz and admire the views and gaze at skies at night.
The extensive lighting upgrade won the prize for “Best Lighting investment in 2018" in a competition organised by the Polish Lighting Industry Association to recognise investments that increase public safety and road safety, as well as to increase the attractiveness and emphasise the advantages of cities and municipalities or individual architectural objects.
The Commission praised how the lighting made the park more attractive also after dark, as well as giving a very positive assessment to the way recreational spaces throughout Swidnica are lit.
Green Investments, Healthier Citizens
A stroll in the park with friends and family is a lovely way to spend time, but it has quantifiable benefits, tool. In June 2020 The Parks Alliance published ‘Making Parks Count’ a report which looks at the business case for investing in parks in the UK. They calculated that parks in England deliver over £6.6 billion of health, climate change and environmental benefits each year, and are worth £140 per year to each urban resident. For every £1 spent on parks in England an estimated £7 in additional value for health and well-being and the environment is generated.
Many people used their local parks for the first time during the lockdown and as restrictions were eased parks became busier than they had ever been previously. Not only has the pandemic changed the relationship between people and their local parks for ever it has underlined the multiple and proven benefits these spaces provide for health and well-being as well as the environment.
Clear Paths, Safer Spaces
Opened in 1869, Finsbury Park is a London landmark, with more than 100 acres of open ground, formal gardens and water features providing vital green space north of the River Thames. Since 2005, investments have added modern sports facilities including football pitches, a bowling green and an athletics stadium: it’s home to the London Blitz American football team and the London Mets baseball team.
All that training, plus its role as a hub in local cycling routes means it gets plenty of use after dark. Schréder worked with Haringey Council, which manages the park, to install 43 Pharos LED Bollards along footpaths and around the pond area. The lighting works as both an architectural feature and promotes a safe atmosphere at a scale ideally suited to pedestrians and cyclists. And the asymmetrical style removes light pollution, keeping pathways bright with no overspill onto the park.
This was a crucial feature around the pond, where excess light would disturb wildlife. The bollards are time-controlled, with dusk-to-dawn sensors that activate when the ambient light level drops below 35 lux.
Warmer Planet, Busier Parks
People have discovered their local parks during the pandemic, and their significance in the urban landscape will only continue to grow. Keeping them open safely after dark will become increasingly important in the long term.
As we’re dealing with the pandemic, we’re also dealing with climate change. We’re moving into a hotter climate and that means people spending time in the coolness of night - so parks are even more of a needed public space in the evening.
As cities recognise the value of parks as places to cool down after dark, host events and enjoy round the clock, a new place is being created - and lighting can help define it.