This article questions light mediation forms in the city during the night. Lighting regulates the perception of the city and its activities. Through a discussion of the evolution of lighting mediation forms like control, sublime, and spectacle, this paper examines urban lighting strategies and the transformation of the city’s image influenced by the lit environment. Furthermore, the motivations and the limitations of lighting mediation are questioned. To illustrate these ideas, the article examines the case study of Montreal’s nocturnal landscape. Through the control of the perception of darkness, the sublimity of economic power, and the excitement caused by spectacular lighting, the night discloses new experiences of the city.
Cet article interroge les formes de médiations lumineuses de la ville la nuit. L’éclairage régule les perceptions de la ville et ses activités. À travers l’évolution de ces formes, comme la surveillance, le sublime et le poétique; cette réflexion questionne différentes stratégies d’éclairage et les transformations de l’image de la ville qu’elles proposent. Ce sont les motivations et les limites de ces médiations lumineuses qui sont questionnées. Pour illustrer notre propos, nous présentons une étude de cas sur le paysage nocturne de Montréal. Par les expériences du contrôle des perceptions liées à l’obscurité, du sublime du pouvoir économique, et de l’excitation provoquée par les lumières spectaculaires, la nuit dévoile de nouvelles expériences de la ville.
Corps de l’article
According to Marshall McLuhan, “the electric light is pure information. It is a medium without a message, as it were, unless it is used to spell out some verbal ad or name.” Electric light erases frontiers and changes the notion of time and space. Humans no longer depend on sunlight; they can drive and circulate freely at night. Lighting changes the relation that society has with the city. Furthermore, in view of technological innovations and the enhancement of public spaces, lighting applications have become diversified, including security, commerce, aesthetics, interactivity, etc. This variety of uses also produces a variety of visual landscapes at night.
Through a reflection on light as a medium, the present article questions the plurality of lighting mediation forms and their significance. It explores how the diverse light mediations structure the perception and the experience of the city. It is important to note that this text stems from a research project on the sociocultural construction of the nocturnal urban landscape, and thus initiates a new reflection on the topic of light as a medium. This investigation on the diversity of Montreal’s landscape at night led to a new understanding of how urban space is hierarchized through different forms of light mediation. Depending on the activities—celebratory, recreational, cultural, or work-related— urban policies participate in defining the identity of the city at night. The variety of lighting designs reveals different strategies on the built experience of the urban environments. As David Nye suggests, while revealing the nocturnal layers of the city, the organization of lighting becomes part of the foundation of urban identity. This paper puts into question different mediations like surveillance, the sublime, and the poetics of urban space.
In this paper, investigating lighting as media suggests studying the evolution of these qualities created by urban lighting strategies and how they changed the mediation of the city. The goal is to understand how these urban strategies work with that immediacy of perception and, thus, develop mediation forms that communicate with the unconscious side of the urban night experience. This article presents an overview of the evolution of urban lighting strategies, concerns, and practices. It deals with questions of security, the economy, and night-related events. These forms structure and participate in the construction of the city’s identity at night. Looking at these approaches helps in understanding the multidimensional facets of lighting as media. The first section presents definitions of the concepts of “intermediality,” “atmosphere,” and “ambiance,” and it addresses the different approaches used in urban lighting. The second, third, and fourth sections examine the three lighting urban strategies discussed earlier—surveillance, the sublime, and poetics. Referring to the theoretical aspects of lighting practices and the case study of Montreal’s nocturnal landscapes, this paper presents the different lighting mediation forms. To conclude, it highlights the issues and the limitations of these forms and how they contribute to the understanding of the urban nocturnal experience.
Mediation and the Evolution of Lighting Forms
As stated by Éric Méchoulan, the concept of intermediality is inspired by the original idea that defined intertextuality and interdiscourse. It focuses on the meaning of the movement between technics and institutions. This concept deals with the power relationship between matter and idea. It offers a way of understanding the construction of meaning by studying the interactions between perceptible manifestations and thoughts. The concept of intermediality provides a new approach to study the milieu where media take multiple meanings and shapes. In Méchoulan’s view, this concept refers to a dynamic context of symbolic organizations, whether they refer to materiality or to relationships.
According to Silvestra Mariniello, intermediality is a polymorphous concept, which can have different meanings. Usually, intermediality refers to the relation between different media. This concept emerged from a constant change of media, and suggests the need to understand the new relations that emerge from the society that contains the media—therefore this concept considers the co-construction between society and media. Subsequently, it offers new perspectives on the evolution of media and opens their study to interdisciplinary approaches. As Mariniello observes, research on intermediality can deal with, among other topics, the genealogy of media. That way, it refers to the materiality of cultural and scientific productions and to the transfer from one medium to another. A medium involves a milieu and a practice, and the result is a comprehension of the link between the two.
These definitions demonstrate that the concept of intermediality offers an approach to study the evolution of media as a movement between materiality and institutions. It suggests that beyond its production, the medium itself changes the experience of the milieu where it is implanted and it generates new meanings leading to a new medium.
To better understand how lighting mediation forms are studied, it is important to approach how authors deal with the different concepts of “atmosphere” and “ambiance.” As Tim Inglod states, light is not something related to vision, but the medium through which objects are seen. He adds that it is “learning in this view and entails the acquisition of cultural schemata” of built representations. Thus, understanding the lighting medium implies understanding its social and cultural interpretations emerging from the milieu that it creates.
In Gernot Böhme’s definition of atmosphere, the structure of perception does not refer to seeing, but rather, as he explains, “in the medium, the presence of things is perceivable.” He conceptualizes perception as the bodily presence of humans in their environment. Therefore, atmosphere is what changes the perceiver’s disposition. It reveals an extension of the perceptibility of things and it implies searching for the characteristics used by the perceived objects in order to reveal themselves. Thus, it questions their physiognomy: the expression and the configuration of how objects appear.
Other authors and researchers have developed approaches to studying the perception of the lit environment through the concept of ambiance. As a design process, lighting reflects the intentions projected onto the territory. Nocturnal urban landscapes are the manifestation of built representations expressed through planners’ interventions. The landscape perspective provides an approach to better understand the dialectic relationship between a city and the observer. From a social and cultural perspective, it helps in understanding both the composition and the experience of urban landscape. The preoccupations related to urban landscapes evolved with the development of sensory and culturally sensitive approaches, which are considered in the concept of ambiance. The term “ambiance” has been defined both by professionals and researchers. The French lighting designer Louis Clair defines ambiance as a way to influence the perception of the audience when something is enhanced. Whereas for Roger Narboni, ambiance is the interaction between different dimensions—physiological, psychological, and cultural. For researchers, ambiance is a transversal and an interdisciplinary concept. For example, Jean-Paul Thibaud states that it reveals the different aspects of space such as place, gesture, practices, and affects. It includes the object’s qualities, the situation, and the personal disposition. Attributing specific physiognomy to ambiance, Thibaud proposes the notion of emotional availability, and he develops the idea of the immediacy of feeling. Ambiance is felt before it is conceptualized; the emotional part makes the experience coherent. Important are ambiance’s disseminated qualities. This concept mixes the material/moral and the objective/subjective aspects of the environment. Therefore, the problem is capturing something that is somewhat inexpressible in common language. It is the shared concerns for the physiognomy or characteristics of the environment that determine the sensitive qualities emerging from the approaches mentioned above. The concept of ambiance incorporates perspectives from both its design and experience.
Few authors have attempted to theorize the impact of lighting on urban experience. For example, Wolfgang Schivelbusch relates the historical evolution of urban lighting and its social impact to the modern era. He describes how lighting opened new perceptions and new possibilities of how to live at night. In another example, Nye demonstrates how electric light transformed the nocturnal cityscape. He shows how the physical city is etherealized by a chaotic free play of lighting signs, and how the city embodies capitalism values. Finally, in his work on Electropolis, Scott McQuire argues that the media city is founded on electrification forms. Electric lighting initiates a new relation with the urban psychogeography and a mutation of architecture’s traditional function.
Taking into account these various studies, the following sections present the different mediation forms that emerge from the most relevant approaches. They provide a theoretical understanding of the evolution of these forms while referring to urban lighting plans. For each approach, a theoretical part is developed and illustrated by examples of some of Montreal’s urban lighting strategies and projects.
Surveillance: Keeping the City Safe in the Dark
Night is often associated with darkness and fear: it often evokes crimes, monsters, and imaginary creatures, and it is associated with stories read to children before bedtime. Literature is rich with stories that take place at night. Characters such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde or Jack the Ripper are meant to scare adults. Some scholars, such as Luc Gwiazdzinski, have studied the fear of the dark and negative representations of the night. Darkness makes people feel insecure. Montandon highlights that until the 19th century, it was customary for the police to lock people’s doors and to sometimes keep the keys. Curfews and police patrolling the streets at night regulated the lives of inhabitants. Schivelbusch notes that nights were usually spent at home. Due to the fear of the dark, light played and continues to play an important role in securing the streets and in protecting inhabitants.
Light enables people to move at night. The implementation of lighting policies helps in securing urban spaces. It is used for its power to reveal crimes otherwise obstructed by darkness: it serves as a monitoring tool. Schivelbusch points out that during the Middle Ages people circulating at night had to identify themselves by carrying a torch. Light enables people to see as well as to identify themselves. As Gaston Bachelard suggests, lighting reveals a game of power between the person who carries the torch and the person who does not. Therefore, the people who do not identify themselves could be considered criminal suspects. The presence of streetlights, then, gives the impression that people are being constantly watched. In the beginning of the 20th century, electric luminaires were considered a replacement for the police. Sophie Mosser makes the link between luminaires and the panoptic system where the former reproduces the latter, and the presence of the panoptic system implies the idea of surveillance. Developing this idea, Michel Foucault revealed the mechanisms of the penal system. Prisons were developed following the panoptic model, featuring a central tower to enable the monitoring of the entire establishment from one location. As in Bentham’s prison, the tower in the middle is used as a subterfuge to control prisoners’ behaviour. The effectiveness of this method, which prevents crimes from occurring, relies more on the image that the tower sends rather than on the fact that someone is watching inside. During the 20th century, especially since the 1960s, urban policies have used lighting for security and functional purposes. Public lighting practices have acquired a mostly functional character in order to make the city accessible for cars and pedestrians.
In the specific context of Montreal, an urban lighting policy was established in 1989 with the aim to divide areas in the city depending on location and on the type of road networks. This lighting plan established a hierarchy among areas in the city, depending on Montreal’s historical development and its activities. Main roads or residential streets are part of the ordinary landscape and are usually lit for security and functional purposes. The use of lighting in these areas makes them more accessible for anyone moving during the night. The street lighting network is made out of a series of luminaires determined by such factors as the width of the road, traffic, level of danger, and the administrative boundaries of the area. The intensity and colour of lighting is set according to what needs to be seen, as defined by urban policies. In the 1980s, the “Femmes et ville”—City and Women—association was consulted while setting the urban lighting plan in place. The city developed criteria to define potential dangerous areas and installed luminaires to make such areas more secure. In residential neighbourhoods, luminaires make people feel at ease. Some luminaires are made for road traffic whereas others take into account the human scale to create a more comfortable atmosphere. The level of luminosity is higher at street intersections to prevent accidents; lighting is, above all, a question of visibility. The repetition and consistency of luminaires in the urban landscape maintain a stable environment, which encourages users to trust the lighting system. If a lit space signifies that one can move safely, then dark areas mean that the city has not ensured its residents’ safety. However, in some cases it is convenient to have softer lights on residential streets, and the presence of mature trees in older neighbourhoods reduces the intensity of light. Darkness presents two contradicting realities: on the one hand, dim lights provide enough obscurity to discourage people from entering residential areas; on the other hand, they help keep these areas quiet and more private (see Fig. 1). Therefore, dark ambiances are open to interpretation; they can insinuate either insecurity or privacy and calmness.
Lighting policies and infrastructures allow people to move during the night, and keep the city safe. Lighting enables a democratisation of night’s accessibility, for example, making it possible for women to walk safely at night. Functional lighting compositions and characteristics communicate the dangerousness of a place. Knowing that criminals can be watched enhances the feeling of security and could prevent criminal activities. However, it is important to remember that although lighting plays a role in creating a sense of security, it does not necessarily guarantee security itself. Systematically assimilating lighting with security could lead to overestimating the power of lighting beyond its real effect.
The Sublime: The Fascination with City Lights
Lighting is not only used to make places more secure, but it also plays a significant role in the animation of the city at night through its power of fascination. Emmanuel Kant has described the sublime as a sensation that makes one feel small when looking at the vastness of a space. The sublime is a mental disposition that surpasses any sensation; it refers to something with no limits, and thus it fascinates. From the International Exposition of Electricity in Paris in 1881 to the World Fair and Columbian Exposition in 1893 in Chicago, and the Universal Exposition in 1937, lighting sources fascinated the public: they were considered a demonstration of technological progress. The discovery of the arc lamp by Edison generated a search for a more resistant and intense source of light. Scientists started looking into improving the quality of colour rendering and into finding a source that would last longer.
Commercial streets developed electric networks to illuminate shop windows and seduce potential clients. The improvement of lighting technologies led to the creation of neon at the beginning of the 20th century. It was a revolution that multiplied the possibilities of transforming the shape of light. Thus, lighting evokes eccentricity; it kindles curiosity, as shown at the Luna Park in Coney Island or the branding of Las Vegas. From New York to Tokyo, commercial areas have developed their own visual identities; neon expresses the idea of dynamism. Yet, the multiplication of signs in the urban landscape also has its limits. Nye explores the unexpected sublimity of lighting; he describes the metamorphosis of the city at night. He shows how the illuminated landscape embodies the cultural values of the American society. The electric cityscape was in large part the result of uncoordinated and individual actions, which are the reflection of economic interests: “The brain could not process all the flashing lights that contested for attention, creating sensory overload, a rush of impressions that rendered individual messages virtually meaningless.” The risk of an accumulation of lighting signs in the urban landscape led to users feeling overwhelmed rather than liberated by this “abundance” and, thus, unable to reach the promise of “personal fulfillment.” Yet, in their role as consumers, they are alienated by the vacuity of these forms and the lack of meaning resulting from the experience of this electric cityscape.
With regards to the Montreal landscape, strategies to visually differentiate commercial from other streets emerged in the 1960s. The presence of numerous signs on major streets such as Sainte-Catherine Street, Saint-Laurent Boulevard, Saint-Denis Street, or Mont-Royal Avenue identify them as commercial areas. In comparison, visible from far away, logos of corporations like Hydro-Québec, Radio-Canada, the National Bank, and the Desjardins Cooperative Financial Group are raised on the top of skyscrapers. Their imposing presence urges people to look up at the sky and identify them. These signs highlight the economic success of corporations, and for a moment immortalize the economic empires of the city visible for everyone to admire them. At the street level, and on a human scale, commercial windows contribute to the ambiance of commercial districts. They tantalize people to acquire the showcased merchandise. Illumination promotes competition between companies and between commercial venues. Companies and venues vary the size, colour, volume, and animation of their signs in order to be more attractive than their competitors. Commercial lighting deals with visibility, with a focus on drawing the attention of potential customers, regardless of the business: banks, insurance companies, grocery stores, clothing stores, erotic clubs, etc. Massive lightings contrast with the hidden activities of adult entertainment businesses whose facades are characterized by distinctive flickering signs. The rhythm of the commercial streets vacillates between moments of rest and moments of activity. The visual impact of the commercial districts increases during seasonal holidays like Christmas. During festivities, fairy-like illuminations add to the atmosphere of commercial and residential streets alike. Halloween and Christmas decorations in residential areas encourage people to walk around and discover the lit neighbourhoods.
Technological evolution enabled the variety of lighting shapes and colours. However, beyond this glittering and colourful ambiance lies a real sense of competition. Commercial signs give an ethereal aspect to the city at night intensifying the desire for consumption. The experience of the growing number of signs while walking in the city is distracting to pedestrians—they do not know where to look and what to look at. This raises awareness about visual and light pollution and questions the organization of cities’ visual branding and the need to hierarchize lighting interventions.
Poetics: Rendering the City Spectacular
This section deals with the new era of urban lighting strategies, which organize the landscape at night. Bachelard developed the idea that light emerging from a candle can arouse the imagination and elevate the mind to a poetic state. The aesthetic aspect of light appeals to the eyes of the spectators. Since the 1990s, cultural events such as Jean-Michel Jarre’s concerts in Houston in 1986 and in Paris in 1990 added a spectacular dimension to the city. Based on the aesthetic and poetic aspects of light, urban planning strategies focused on developing lighting master plans, lighting charters, and scenography to create and organize city landscapes at night. The diversification of the use of lighting increases its function: it can be used for security, instrumental purposes, valorization, promotion, and for shows. Urban marketing participates in developing visual identities leading to political and economic strategies, thus reinforcing some professions like lighting design as well as promoting new ways for the development of lighting plans. This led to new expectations in terms of the quality of the city’s image.
Currently, the trend is to use lighting to promote and highlight culture in order to contribute to the local economy. In order to create nocturnal identity, planners reuse culture by illuminating emblematic elements in the landscape as a support for these new images. Professionals seem to focus on aspects like the city’s historical and symbolic dimensions. Lighting designers are mostly involved in projects such as lighting master plans that highlight historical and institutional buildings, monuments, or artistic projects. This phenomenon is increasingly seen in Europe, North America, and Asia. The Light Urban Community International (LUCI) association was created so that professionals can share their lighting skills and knowledge of urban environments. Lighting design became a trend for cities that want to develop their economy and tourism. Cities in France, Germany, and Mexico developed lighting master plans, whereas cities in Asia, like Hong Kong, have used lighting to create scenography within cityscapes.
A new visual language emerges from these aesthetic and poetic facets of lighting. Lighting can reveal hidden architectural details; for example, elements invisible during the day become visible at night. Lighting also can hide defects, thus transforming the meaning behind architectural perception. The development of approaches to urban lighting aesthetic suggests an evolution of lighting designers’ practices. Often lighting designers have an artistic background or come from creative disciplines (design, architecture, etc.), and in their work, they produce hybrid creations, the result of a mix of disciplines. The meeting of professionals such as artists, architects, and engineers creates new preoccupations that bridge aesthetic, organizational, and technical concerns. For example, designers borrow communication codes from cinema and theatre, and these visual effects redefine the practices and the usage of lighting by mixing artistic representations and urban milieu, while taking into account the latter’s political and social concerns.
In the case of Montreal, its symbols and panoramas at night leave a lasting first impression, especially when it comes to important buildings and monuments. To create the nocturnal landscape, urban planners design panoramic views from different areas in the city. For example, the historic district of Old Montreal can be seen from many places such as the Jacques Cartier Bridge or from the observatory of the Mount Royal Park. It is important to mention that this park is located in the middle of the city and it offers different views to the different parts of town to those who wish to contemplate the urban landscape at night (see Fig. 3). To reinforce the visual effects of the panoramas, designers take into account different viewpoints. Planners chose buildings depending on their status—whether they are ranked as heritage buildings or whether they are of certain architectural value—and their visual impact on the composition of the landscape. The selection of the buildings is based mainly on the intention of creating a coherent, harmonious, and aesthetic urban landscape. These symbolic elements can be typically seen in mass media such as television and movies. They tend to make the city more attractive—for example, the Olympic Stadium and the cross in the Mount Royal Park. These symbols are used to renew the image of Montreal at night. The city also uses lighting to transform entire neighbourhoods such as Old Montreal and the Quartier des spectacles.
The lighting master plans reveal the intention to redefine the downtown area and make it more attractive. Competing with suburban cities like Laval and Longueil, these lighting plans create new identities and encourage people to stay in or move to Montreal. In the 1980s, Old Montreal was perceived as threatening and unattractive because of its dark streets. This is when planners and designers used the architecture of the area to adjust luminaires, thus improving pedestrian vision and enhancing the value of the neighbourhood’s historic buildings. Also as part of the plan, institutional buildings like City Hall or the Place Jacques Cartier were illuminated in order to underline the government’s power. As a result, light not only gave an impression of comfort and security, but it also evoked the romantic atmosphere created from illuminated heritage buildings and streets, encouraging people to visit and walk around. Over the last two decades, the number of residents in this district has considerably increased.
Another striking example is the cultural heart of Montreal, the Quartier des spectacles, which benefited from having a lighting master plan. In 2002, following a workshop on this initiative, a winning team of designers proposed to create a branding of this district using lighting design. Created in 2006 by the Quartier des spectacles partnership, this area encapsulates different scales of lighting interventions: district branding, pathways, architectural lighting, and artistic installations. The lighting signature on the entrances of cultural and institutional buildings—a series of red-light dots on the sidewalks—helps users identify the sites of cultural interest in the neighbourhood. They also remind them of Montreal’s original Red Light district. Numerous lighting installations and projections are displayed on the Place des festivals and on the facades of institutional buildings like high schools, universities, theatres, concert halls, etc. These new lighting forms also initiate interactions with the audience, connected through Internet applications or in-situ interfaces: users can interact with building facades or project searchlights towards the sky. The light forms invite users to walk around and rediscover the neighbourhood. Interconnected lighting projects give a distinctive visual identity and a spatial and temporal rhythm to the area’s activities.
The emergence of urban lighting plans reveals a transition from enhancing heritage and institutional buildings to creating dynamic lighting animations that symbolize an era of leisure. Integrating lighting designs changes both the lighting practices and communication codes of the urban landscape at night. It also offers new possibilities to transform the urban nightscape at the different geographical scales—urban grid, neighbourhood, specific places or architectural elements. Between real and virtual, aesthetic and entertainment, new lighting forms redefine urban practices; some parts of the city, especially the inner city, become a patchwork of diverse lighting strategies.
This article proposes an exploration of the most relevant lighting mediation forms that are part of the nocturnal urban landscape. The use of lighting is the manifestation of how humans desire the city to be experienced. The main goal of the article is to illustrate how these lighting forms transform our interactions with the urban space depending on urban strategies, and how they participate in structuring the city at night. These forms not only divide the city into different sectors, but they also add complexity to our understanding of space when they meet in the same place. The case of Montreal provides a good example, with its diverse areas where residential neighbourhoods tend to be calm and quiet whereas central areas are rich in lighting forms, which is an experience in itself. Moreover, the economic and political contexts orient Montreal’s urban strategies towards creating dynamic images where lighting promotes the city and adds value to it. Since the 1990s and the 2000s, new urban lighting strategies, like the master plans of Old Montreal and the Quartier des spectacles, have participated in the renewal of the Montreal nocturnal experience.
This article presents a brief overview of lighting mediation forms and their evolution in order to suggest a better understanding of how urban strategies shape the experience of the city at night. First, the extension of the electric grid since the end of the 19th century democratized the accessibility of urban space during the night. Lighting policy reveals its limits in making public spaces safer while enabling, in an equitable way, vulnerable population groups to access the space freely. As darkness is often associated with fear, the use of warm yellow-orange lights aims to create a feeling of comfort. This leads people to think that they can circulate easily. Giving people access to the city implies that they may have to accept to be under surveillance. Using light for monitoring purposes suggests that political institutions control and have power over the city. Lighting the urban space gives the impression that the hidden dangers of the night are revealed. If light enables people to move at night and it makes them feel more secure, then two questions remain: When used as a surveillance instrument, to what degree does lighting cause people to lose some of their freedom? Does keeping the city lit give the impression that darkness is synonymous with danger?
Second, the unexpected electrical sublimity of the nightscape stated by Nye demonstrates the fascination humans have with light. Sublimity is a constant reminder that lighting is beyond the simple act of seeing; lighting transcends sight and provokes the admiration of the person observing the city. Through the buildings’ illuminations, companies express their economic power. It evokes the idea that Humans dominate Nature and that light conquered the night. Lighting sublimity refers to the desire for the city, which fulfills one’s dreams. With technological improvements and the diversification of lighting sources, such as neons and electroluminescent diodes, the 20th century turned into a race on which city is the brightest and the most illuminated. The term “bright city” is synonymous with dynamism. The multiplication of signs brings forward their limits: this multitude blurs one’s vision thus disabling the signs from delivering their original message, which in turn leads to a vacuity of meaning. In the late 1970s and in the 1980s, the increase in the number of signs raised the issue of visual pollution and the need to organize lighting signs. Nevertheless, the growing intensity of light pollution changed the way the city is thought of at night. Artificial light masks the star-filled sky; this awareness helps in rediscovering the importance of experiencing the night sky draped with stars.
Third, the city became the laboratory of cross-disciplinary lighting practices. Light participates in the reinvention and the “spectacularization” of the nocturnal city landscape. It helps in creating desirable cities to visit and to live in. Using poetic and aesthetic approaches of lighting, the city becomes a privileged place undergoing a metamorphosis. Illumination enhances the romantic aspects of heritage buildings, the power behind institutional buildings, the visual branding of cultural activities, and the need to experiment with new interactive art forms. Juggling the elements that compose the cityscape, like architecture, places, and monuments, gives the impression that everything has infinite possibilities for change. However, as Alain Mons observes, the constant visual changes of the nocturnal landscape may lead to an appearance mode, which means that things change only on the surface. The meaning of this mode derives from the kind of change that makes something appear differently. As Mons states, this mode reveals the evasive nature of lighting, which prevents understanding spatiality through the visual experience. Pleasure arises from the experience of this constant change. Architectural facades lose their significance and are reduced to a simple support for light projections. If we are to improve the effects of these projections, the consequence would be a neutralizing of the aesthetics of architecture and urban places. The light medium has an effect on stone, concrete, and glass; thus, artificial light would impact the aspect of architectural forms in daylight.
Sylvain Bertin is completing his Ph.D. in Environmental Design at the Université de Montréal. He has collaborated on a variety of research projects with the Chair of Landscape and Environment, the Research Group in Illumination and Design, the Lab of Form-Color-Light, and the New Work Environments Research Group at the Université de Montréal. He has published articles in different journals such as Urban Environment, for the Institut de recherche en histoire de l’architecture, and the European Journal of Disability Research (ALTER).
Marshall McLuhan, “The Medium is the Message,” in M. G. Durham and D. Kellner (eds.), Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks, Malden, Blackwell, 2006, p. 107.
The reflections in this paper emerge from a doctoral dissertation in environmental design addressing the sociocultural construction of the nocturnal urban landscape. Since this study is conducted in the environmental design discipline, it refers to anthropological and experiential approaches to the urban landscape. It explores the urban landscape at night with the aim to consider from a new perspective the concerns and issues in lighting practices. It offers a new understanding of how lighting organizes night representations and activities within the city using the case study of Montreal, Canada. Sylvain Bertin, Le paysage urbain nocturne: une dialectique du regard entre ombre et lumière/The nocturnal urban landscape: a dialectical perspective between luminosity and obscurity, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Montreal, Université de Montréal, 2016. See also: Sylvain Bertin and Sylvain Paquette, “Apprendre à regarder la ville dans l’obscurité: les ‘entre-deux’ du paysage urbain nocturne,” Revue Environnement Urbain/Urban Environment, 2015, no 9, http://eue.revues.org/603 (visited May 9, 2016).
In this paper, the concept of “landscape” is not only considered from an aesthetic perspective and a panoramic point of view of the city, but also from an urban landscape approach that defines it as a combination of multiple experiences of the city. In particular, these approaches reuse the notion of the flâneur developed by W. Benjamin during the 20th century. Walter Benjamin, Paris, capitale du XIXe siècle, Chicoutimi, J.-M. Tremblay, 2003.
David E. Nye, "Foreword," in S. Isenstadt, M. M. Petty, and D. Neumann (eds.), Cities of Light: Two Centuries of Urban Illumination, London, Routledge, 2015, p. xix-xxi.
Éric Méchoulan, "Intermédialités: Le temps des illusions perdues," Intermedialité/Intermediality, Montreal, Presses de l’Université de Montréal, no 1 “naître / birth of a concept,” printemps 2003, p. 9-27.
Éric Méchoulan, Conférence de synthèse, paper presented at CRI La nouvelle sphère intermédiatique, 2000, cri.histart.umontreal.ca/cri/sphere1/conf-mechoulan.htm (visited May 9, 2016).
Silvestra Mariniello, “L’intermédialité: un concept polymorphe,” in C. Vieira and I. Rio Nuovo (eds.), Inter media: littérature, cinéma et intermédialité, Paris, Harmattan, 2011, p. 11-30, 246.
“La recherche intermédiale porte, entre autres, sur la généalogie des médias fondée sur la matérialité de toute production culturelle et scientifique; sur les phénomènes de transfert; sur l’histoire des médias résultant de cette généalogie et de ces transferts.” Ibid., p. 15.
Tim Ingold, “Stop, Look and Listen! Vision, Hearing and Human Movement,” in The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill, London, New York, Routledge, 2000, p. 243-287.
Ibid., p. 55.
Gernot Böhme, “An Aesthetic Theory of Nature: An Interim Report,” Thesis Eleven: Critical Theory and Historical Sociology, London, Sage, no 32, 1992, p. 99.
Gabriel Rougerie and N. L. Beroutchachvili, Géosystèmes et paysages: bilan et méthodes, Paris, A. Colin, 1991, p. 125-159.
Louis Clair, Architectures de lumières, Paris, Fragments, 2003, p. 23.
Roger Narboni, Lumière et ambiances. Concevoir des éclairages pour l'architecture et la ville, Paris, Le Moniteur, 2006, p. 14.
Jean-Paul Thibaud, “L’horizon des ambiances urbaines” in Philippe Bonnin (ed.), Communications, Paris, Editions du Seuil, no 73, p. 185-202.
In French, the original concept is termed tonalités affectives (Ibid., p. 268). The suggested translation of the author is “emotional availability.” Jean-Paul Thibaud, En quête d'ambiances: Éprouver la ville en passant, Genève, Métis Presses, 2015.
Wolfgang Schivelbusch, La nuit désenchantée. À propos de l'histoire de l'éclairage artificiel au XIXe siècle, Paris, Gallimard, coll. “Le Promeneur,” 1993.
David E. Nye, American Technological Sublime, Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1994, p. 143-198.
Scott McQuire, The Media City: Media, Architecture and Urban Space, Los Angeles, Sage, 2008, p. 113-129.
Bertin, 2016. These examples are extracted from the previously mentioned doctoral dissertation.
Luc Gwiazdzinski, La nuit dimension oubliée de la ville: entre animation et insécurité. L'exemple de Strasbourg, doctoral dissertation in Geography, Université Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg, 2002, p. 24-60.
Alain Montandon, "Flâneries aux lumières de la ville", in A. Montandon (ed.), Promenades nocturnes, Paris, L'Harmattan, 2009, p. 9-38, 11.
Schivelbusch, 1993, p. 71-84.
Schivelbusch refers to Bachelard who explains, from a phenomenological perspective, the tensions between the fear of the dark and the need to identify individuals at night. Wolfgang Schivelbusch, “La ville la nuit. La peur des rues la nuit,” in M. Zardini (ed.), Sensations urbaines: une approche différente à l'urbanisme, Montréal, Baden, Centre Canadien d'Architecture et Lars Müller Publishers, 2005, p. 65-77.
Sophie Mosser, Éclairage urbain: enjeux et instruments d'actions, doctoral dissertation in Urbanism, Université Paris 8, Vincennes-Saint-Denis, Paris, 2003, p. 24-29.
Michel Foucault, Surveiller et punir: naissance de la prison, Paris: Gallimard, 1975, p. 197-229.
Jeremy Bentham and Christian Laval, Panoptique mémoire sur un nouveau principe pour construire des maisons d'inspection, et nommément des maisons de force. Notes et postface de Christian Laval, Paris, Éditions Mille et une nuits, 2002, p. 9-22.
This policy is presently being updated to better respond to the actual needs and issues of the city. Ville de Montréal, Éclairer Montréal: politique d'éclairage intégré à l'aménagement du domaine public, modalités d'application, Montreal, Ville de Montréal, 1989, p. 1-6.
This group represents feminist interests; it is part of a program initiated by the City of Montreal. Accompanied by female citizens, lighting professionals took walks in different areas of the city to evaluate the quality of lighting design, paying special attention to questions of security.
Emmanuel Kant and Ferdinand Alquié, Critique de la faculté de juger (suivi de) Idée d'une histoire universelle au point de vue cosmopolitique (et de) Réponse à la question, qu'est-ce que les lumières?, Ferdinand Alquié (ed.), Paris, Gallimard, 1989, p. 186-190.
Some authors talk about the technical evolution of lighting sources, especially with the discovery of gas and electricity. See: Alain Beltran, “La ‘fée électricité,’ reine et servante,” Vingtième Siècle. Revue d'histoire, 1987, p. 90-95; Carolyn Marvin, “Éblouir les masses. La lumière électrique comme moyen de communication,” Culture technique, no 28, 1993, p. 178-195; Schivelbusch, 1993, p. 9-70.
Maurice Dériberé and Paulette Dériberé, Préhistoire et histoire de la lumière: les premiers matins du monde, Paris, Éditions France-Empire, 1979, p. 251-273.
Marvin, 1993, p. 180.
Rem Koolhaas, New York délire: un manifeste rétroactif pour Manhattan, Paris, Chêne, 1978, p. 28-80.
Rudi Stern, Let There Be Neon, London, Academy Editions, 1980, p. 33.
Nye, 1994, p. 143-198.
In his work, Nye defines the sublime as a powerful experience that gives transcendent significance to human works. Therefore, it is “a shared emotion,” an element of “social cohesion” that unites the American multicultural society. Ibid., p. xiii-xiv.
Ibid., p. 197.
Gaston Bachelard, La flamme d'une chandelle, 2nd ed., Paris, Presses universitaires de France, 1962, p. 34-69.
For more information about these different types of urban lighting plans, see Roger Narboni, La lumière urbaine: éclairer les espaces publics, Paris, Le Moniteur, 1995.
Jean-Marc Dupont and Marc Giraud, L'urbanisme lumière, Paris, Éditions Sorman, 1992, p. 45-49.
Johnny Cartier, Lumières sur la ville l'aménagement et la ville nocturne, de la pratique professionnelle à l'usager, Lyon, Aléas, coll. “Pour mémoire,” 1998, p. 29-59.
Ibid., p. 61-80.
“About LUCI,” Light Urban Community International, Luci Association, http://www.luciassociation.org/about-luci/ (visited October 29, 2014).
Rogier van der Heide, “Why Light Needs Darkness?,” conference talk at TEDxAmsterdam, TED, October 2010, www.ted.com/talks/rogier_van_der_heide_why_light_needs_darkness#t-115015 (visited July 30, 2015).
Sandra Fiori and Cécile Regnault, “La conception des ambiances. Concepteurs sonores et concepteurs lumière. Figures professionnelles émergentes des ambiances architecturales et urbaines,” Culture et recherche, no 113, 2007, p. 19-21.
Jean-Jacques Ezrati, “Entre l'artiste et l'ingénieur: le concepteur lumière et l'éclairagiste,” Protée, vol. 31, no 3, Winter 2003, p. 107-111.
Sylvain Bertin, Recherche qualitative des enjeux de la mise en lumière urbaine : création d’un modèle opératoire pour la conception des projets d’éclairage, Master's thesis in Applied Sciences, Université de Montréal, Montreal, 2008, p. 40-42.
Sandra Fiori, Éclairage scénique/Éclairage urbain, esquisse d'une comparaison théorique, méthodologique et pratique, diploma thesis in Architectural and Urban Ambiances, Université de Nantes, École d'architecture de Nantes, Nantes, 1995.
Élodie Bécheras, Le concepteur lumière et les inventions contemporaines en arts du spectacle: d'une critique de la théâtralisation à de nouvelles poïétiques de mise en lumière. Doctorate in Arts plastiques, Arts appliqués, Sciences de l'Art, Université de Toulouse II - Le Mirail, Toulouse, 2009.
Entente sur le développement culturel de Montréal, Opération lumière du Vieux-Montréal, Groupe Cardinal Hardy in collaboration with LDL, Ville de Montréal, Gouvernement du Québec, Ministère de la Culture et des Communications, 1996. See also: Aurèle Cardinal and Michèle Gauthier, Aménagement urbain et esthétique de la lumière à Montréal, Montreal, Institut national de la recherche scientifique (urbanisation), coll. “Culture et ville: les nouveaux territoires urbains,” 1999.
“Le partenariat du Quartier des spectacles,” Quartier des spectacles Montréal, 2014, www.quartierdesspectacles.com/fr/a-propos/partenariat-du-qds/ (visited September 11, 2014).
Concept d'identité: développement de l'image du quartier, iconographie et signalétique. Workshop professionnel 14 au 18 février 2005 / Identity concept: developping a neighbourhood image, icnography and signage. Professional workshop, February 14 to 18, 2005, Partenariat du Quartier des spectacles, Montréal, Montréal Ville UNESCO de design, Développement économique Canada, 2006.
See the “relational architectures” of Lozano-Hemmer. As an example, “Articulated Intersect” was presented during the Triennale québécoise on the Place des festivals in Montreal in 2011. It enabled the public to interact with the lights. Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, “Articulated Intersect,” artist website, www.lozano-hemmer.com/articulated_intersect.php (visited May 10, 2015).
It refers to the diversity of lighting forms; from city images composed of illuminating real landscape elements, to lighting projections on facades that visually transform the architecture.
Alain Mons, Les lieux du sensible villes, hommes, images, Paris, CNRS Éditions, 2013, p. 41-56.
The original term is “mode aspectuel.” Ibid., p. 50.