NIGHTSIGHT Lighting System: Collaboration with Zumtobel

In collaboration with Zumtobel, our Product Unit and our Materials Platform developed a study for the NIGHTSIGHT modular outdoor lighting system. The NIGHTSIGHT project is a versatile lighting system designed to improve the quality, accessibility and usability of public spaces after dark. With a distinctive LED product range, the NIGHTSIGHT toolbox exceeds standard street lighting solutions by enabling variable qualities of light: from dynamic to soft, with variable intensities, glare reduction, reduced light spill and directional lighting.

As a collection of observations, analyses and strategies for lighting in the urban context, this study goes behind the scenes of the development of the NIGHTSIGHT project. It is divided into three sections: 'Life After Dark', 'Lighting the Urban' and 'The Smart City'. NIGHTSIGHT was formally introduced at the Light + Building Fair in Frankfurt am Main in March 2016.

NIGHTSIGHT Lighting System by UNStudio with Zumtobel

Living in the Urban Age, we are constantly surrounded by light. Yet we are often oblivious to the effects that this essential medium has on us and our surroundings. Lighting during the day and the night is a vital consideration when designing both internal and external environments. The importance of light in the daily routine of life cannot be overstated. Our bodies run on a circadian rhythm, a ‘daily’ bodily rhythm of roughly 24 hours and 11 minutes. This system is sensitive to changes in solar light throughout the day and is partially dictated, and reset, by the light we encounter. For most people, the day does not end when the sun goes down, so artificial urban lighting plays a very important role in shaping how we experience dusk, evening and night.

However, some urban lighting can be in part dysfunctional; employing light sources with extreme brightness for the duration of the darker hours when light is not required. This pattern is not only wasteful, but can produce a sense of insecurity and disrupt the natural circadian rhythms of humans and wildlife, causing adverse behavioural changes. More intense light can even have the capacity to trigger more intense emotional responses. In principle, lighting strategies should be adaptable for different periods of the night - and for different human needs. Well-considered lighting strategies encourage people to venture into the night.

Lighting designers use the notion of building up layers of light to craft each individual setting. If you are walking toward a building through a town square at night, the levels and layers of lighting around you might be designed not only to guide you toward the building but also to provide feelings of safety and welcoming. As you move through the square, your attention may be drawn to the bars and shops lit up either side of you. Then you may notice the unique facade and entrance lighting of the building you are heading for. A study conducted by the University of Granada concluded that out of 275 users, 87% felt safer walking through an area lit with more dimmed LED lights (54 lumens) than in an area lit with fewer sodium lights (86 lumens) at full brightness. The dimmed setting was found to be less intrusive and provided more effective lighting overall. Therefore sensitive and precise layers of lighting can generate coherent and enjoyable spaces that encourage human activity.

Stage and theatre lighting have a different set of intentions to typical architectural lighting. By using a plethora of techniques and intensities, stage and theatre lighting aims to express moods, fabricate illusions and narrate engaging stories. Where a theatre stage is not designed for one specific performance, a public space is not designed for one specific use or person. In theory, one might say that effective architectural lighting should be able to adapt for the wide range of performances occurring in the 'urban theatre'.

Source: Avalanche Concert Lighting & Staging

Such theatrical techniques are used by architects, designers and artists to create powerful lighting that can alter the way people see their surroundings and to craft the experiences they feel. Light and shadow are inherently interdependent; it is the play between light and shade that manifests visual interest and curiosity.

Diagram of Theatrical Lighting with Reference Images

The balance of light and shade in outdoor spaces can be adapted depending on the lighting techniques used on the surrounding verticals. The lighting of vertical faces plays a central role in how outdoor urban spaces are sculpted and perceived at night.

Lighting verticals to enhance spatial perceptions
Lighting verticals to promote visual orientation
Lighting that supports communication and social interaction

Although there is already a well-established market for lighting in urban settings, most products in that market fail to function as a complete system and can therefore be significantly wasteful. Note that in the image below, extreme ‘flood’ lighting actually produces more areas of extreme darkness. According to the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, 'Poorly-aimed, unshielded outdoor lights waste $2 billion (17 billion kilowatt-hours) of energy in the U.S. each year'. There is a fine line between dimmer, non-intrusive lighting and having the capacity to meet all the technical standards and laws required in a particular urban setting.

Source: Curt Sanburn

Adaptive, or SWARM, lighting is an existing wireless sensor technology between luminaries and user. The luminaire maintains a minimal level of lighting to provide ambiance but not glare. When the user is in proximity the light brightens to aid wayfinding.

SWARM lighting - combined with a modular lighting design – has the potential to create an adaptable lighting system that could be built into many different configurations covering all areas of urban lighting. This innovative system has the potential to create a more personal way of experiencing light. This could mean providing effective - but not intrusive - light, exactly where and when you need it.

Source: TVILIGHT Intelligent Lighting

This preliminary concept does not stop at lighting however. Entire cities have the potential to develop their urban services with these interconnecting technologies. Royal Philips, in collaboration with Ericsson, are currently developing a SmartPole street lighting concept, which not only functions as adaptive street lighting but also has Bluetooth, 4G and Wi-Fi capability. Reliable internet access across cities is great for immediate benefits, but this service also offers long term benefits such as increased economic development and more efficient infrastructures. Local area information, available at every SmartPole, could inform people far more quickly of public announcements. With these concepts in rapid development, it begs the question of how far – and how quickly – these technologies can develop in the evolution of cityscapes worldwide. 

These research topics helped guide the development of NIGHTSIGHT and echo throughout the final design trough the following three topics.

Life After Dark

The outcome of the NIGHTSIGHT collaboration with Zumtobel comprises different sized sets of LED luminaires and a unifying design language. Novel composite beam optic technology from Zumtobel ensures that the only light emitted is efficient and controlled, allowing for the light to harmoniously blend into the night. As a uniquely adaptable toolbox, NIGHTSIGHT can be positioned universally on street furniture and buildings.

Lighting the Urban

Inspired by the flexibility of theatre lighting, the NIGHTSIGHT product range can illuminate an assortment of scenes with varying intensities of light. The modular design allows for a straight-forward set up and simple adjustment on site. NIGHTSIGHT provides architects and lighting designers with a new focus on illuminating individual requirements in urban spaces.

Similar adaptive product systems such as SWARM, the interconnecting luminaires in NIGHTSIGHT, react and adjust to provide carefully considered task and environment lighting directly where and when it is needed.

UNStudio Team: Filippo Lodi, William de Boer, Alexander Leck

Smart Lighting