Detective Note

Vol.058-Finding the Ideal Street Lighting


Interviewer: Niken Wulandari

Mende: Niken, do you like traveling?

Niken: Yes, I do. I brought photos that I took from my trips, and we will talk about street lighting. I started to pay more attention to this since I did my thesis. During the time, I surveyed and compared the view during daytime and nighttime. That is when I noticed there are many designs of street elements that are visible during the daytime and not very noticeable during night-time.

Mende: At the beginning, in Asia, everyone understood that lighting design is for the shape of the pole element. They care less about the lighting effect and the environment at nighttime, just focus on the beautiful shape of the street poles.

Niken: I found that a lot of streets in European cities are using catenary lights, so they don’t have a lot of elements on the streets. When we walk, we don’t notice where the lights are coming from, we can enjoy the street view because it’s not obstructed by the poles. That’s why I like the concept of using catenary light.

Mende: It is quite difficult for us in Japan or other Asian countries to implement this method to the buildings, it is not allowed in Japan. In Europe, they also mount wall-scones to the building. We have been suggesting so many times to use catenary light or wall-mounted street lighting in Tokyo and other cities in Japan, but it is never successful. Nobody can accept this idea because the private areas are for private own and public areas are for the public, we need to have some separation line for the maintenance and wiring. But many cities in Europe can do it.

Niken: I found the modern and simple approach is to use pole lighting, with a mixture of modern and traditional pole lighting. This small street with stairs that only using pole lighting with lantern style at the top. Although it looks nice, I think it can be improved to minimize the spill light to the windows. They are also using the same pole lighting at the main street, combining with catenary lighting for the main road.

Mende: I also think it is too glary for the residents. Many cities in Tokyo, like in Ginza, even in the small streets, it is like a competition between the streets. Each one has a slightly different motif or design at the top.

Niken: That is interesting. In Bandung, especially around the old town, they use pole lighting with a tiger as the decorative elements on top, but there is a story behind it. The tiger represents the monarch symbol of the Dutch Queen since the city was occupied by the Dutch for a long time before the independence. I think it is interesting to merge a historical story into the city pole lighting. It shows that pole lighting can also look attractive during the daytime.

Mende: I agree, it shows the important history and it creates a memorial value. But at nighttime, we can give a little bit of advice on this. This looks like a very old streetlight. I like this one very much, it is unique and shows an important history for the people. But the lighting effect is a different thing that we need to see. How do you think we should improve this street lighting?

Niken: I want to keep the shape of the pole, but maybe we can change the light source to a directional type to minimizes the spill.

Mende: My idea is to give it a bigger hat. Then we can avoid the light to shine up to the sky. Or we can give a shield at the top, make it black. I like the shape of the dome.

Niken: This is a street lighting in Singapore with a similar dome. We can also improve the glare by adding a shield to block the spill light.

Mende: We have many references to just putting some shield on the existing street lighting to improve the glare. In Tokyo, near my house, the residents complained to the city about the existing street lighting, and the government put additional coverage to the street lighting. Also, we are proposing some ideas to the city of Kyoto. Kyoto becomes very bright and white with a high colour temperature LED now. Kyoto should be warm because of the important historical city. So, we suggested to the city to add the colour filter to lower the colour temperature because they cannot change the entire street lighting.

Niken: I have one more image to show, it is not really a street lighting, but I think it’s interesting. I took this photo during Christmas in Basel. They installed lighting with a shape of a candle on the construction crane, so it created a nice decoration to the skyline at nighttime. It’s just a simple lighting method using linear lighting around the crane structure.

Mende: This kind of idea is very much acceptable. Once we have a very artistic project in Tokyo at the construction site. Every crane was painted gold as part of the art performance. This kind of industrial shape can be beautiful, not only for functional purposes. We should suggest this idea to the contractors. During the daytime, it is used for construction, but at nighttime, it is an artwork.

Basically, for street lighting, I have principle learning from nature. During the daytime, we learn from the sun. The sun is above us and there are no lighting fixtures. I hope at nighttime, there are also no lighting fixtures, but we can have a different scenery than the daytime. That means maybe we don’t need street lighting, but the lights are coming from the houses or buildings. We need artificial light for security reasons. As a lighting designer, we always try to make it simple and invisible. Nowadays, I try to do both ways, using a monumental shape street lighting for daytime but using new technology to create a good lighting quality and nice scenery at nighttime.

Niken: So, according to Mr. Mende, which types of street lighting are the preferred ideas for street lighting?

Mende: For me, using catenary lighting and wall lighting, we can create a moonlight effect. My idea is not only for moonlight but also for emergency light. The combination of both is even better. Niken: I agree with you. Thank you, Mr. Mende, I learn more about street lighting from this coffee break.