Landscapes - Winter 2013 - (Page 30)
NIGHT LIGHTS| LUEURS NOCTURNES
PETER HARNIK, RYAN DONAHUE, JORDAN THALER
TO LIGHT ... OR NOT TO LIGHT?
FOR URBAN PARKS, THAT IS OFTEN
ÉCLAIRER OU NE
PAS ÉCLAIRER ?
LES NOUVELLES MÉTHODES
D’ÉCLAIRAGE RÉPONDENT AUX
DÉFENSEURS DU CIEL ÉTOILÉ
AN EARLY NIGHTTIME ﬂight over a city
clearly reveals the dichotomy. Within
the fabric of pulsing roads and faintly
shimmering neighborhoods, the patches of
complete blackness are almost invariably
parks—the only spaces that retain the ancient
vestige of total darkness in our modern,
artiﬁcial world. And the pools of dazzling
white light are usually also parks— venues
where baseball, football or other organized
games are being played.
In the past, the debate over lighting
seemed to admit no compromise. Advocates
claim that parks obviously need lights for
safety: the more bulbs, the fewer criminals,
the less vandalism. Opponents lament
losing the beauty and primordial romance of
nature in the dark. Organizations such as the
International Dark-Sky Association (IDSA) and
National Dark Sky Week battle light pollution,
and say it disrupts patterns of behavior for
nocturnal animals and prevents humans from
enjoying the wonders of the nighttime sky.
Even dark parks aren’t always dark enough.
In December 2010, when a ranger took a
group of New Yorkers out to a remote park at
midnight to watch what was expected to be a
spectacular meteor shower, the shooting stars
weren’t visible because of the overwhelming
ambient glow from the city.
Park managers are caught between
the politics and the signiﬁcant expense of
installing lighting and paying utility bills.
Fortunately, technological advances are
30 LANDSCAPES PAYSAGES
helping to bridge the gap. Some programs are
showing that lighting can help purge parks of
criminal behavior, and new technology enables
light to be conﬁned to the ground without
blurring the cosmos—at lower cost.
One proponent of bright parks is Los
Angeles, known for its shortage of parkland
in crowded, low-income communities and also
for a gang turf culture that frequently spills
over into parks. Harvard Park in Inglewood,
historically a ﬂashpoint for gang conﬂict,
was perennially shunned after dark by all
but the bravest of residents. Thanks to an
initiative called Summer Night Lights, things
have been different for the past three years.
The city, by ratcheting up nighttime visibility
and adding programming such as athletic
leagues, arts initiatives and family programs
at Harvard Park and 23 others, has helped
use gang loyalties to spur healthier organized
competition and to diminish vandalism, drug
use and violence.
Because of the lights and programs,
other members of the community now
feel comfortable there at night, too, which
improves Harvard Park’s usership and safety.
Alicia Avalos, the director of Summer Night
Lights, says: “The program is not about
changing someone’s identity, but rather
curbing violent behavior. Out of 24 sites, we
have not had to pull out of one.” Compared
with statistics from before the program, she
notes, there has been a 40 percent reduction
in gang activity and a 57 percent reduction in
gang-related homicides. The success of the
program has made it a priority at city hall. Even
as Los Angeles struggles with a budget deﬁcit,
the program has been expanded to include
eight more parks. (About half the $6.2 million
program is funded by private companies.)
Other cities are seeing the light, too—Long
Beach, California, and Jacksonville, Florida,
have recently started similar programs.
Although the Los Angeles program is
a success, it’s not universally agreed that
maximizing lighting is the key to safety.
Some people believe that programming and
community building do more than bulbs, and
they challenge the notion that brighter parks
are necessarily safer.
“Based on before-and-after studies of
crime statistics, there is no clear evidence that
outdoor lighting reduces crime.” That’s the
verdict of a March 2008 study by the Royal
Astronomical Society of Canada, which found
that many criminal activities, such as theft,
are “more prevalent during daytime hours,”
and that “artiﬁcial lighting can encourage
certain types of vandalism, such as graffiti,
as individuals are better able to see what
they are doing.” In the United Kingdom, a
2009 study by the Royal Commission on
Environmental Pollution suggested that badly
designed street lighting can lead to glare and
dark shadows that may promote rather than
hinder criminal activity. A meta-analysis by
British researchers looked at eight American
studies, ﬁnding that they split evenly on
the topic of whether lighting reduces crime
in parks. When the results of the studies
aggregated, they did show a seven percent
reduction in criminal activity—but that ﬁgure
is barely statistically signiﬁcant.
In some cases, leaving a park dark can make
it safer by not giving users a false sense of
security. Greenway designers argue that if
lighting is going to be placed haphazardly, it
is better to make its absence conspicuous,
clearly signaling that the area is not meant for
use after dark. Also, if only certain paths are
lit, criminals can more easily predict the paths
of pedestrians. (These are sometimes referred
to as “channelized routes” or “movement
Whether lighting actually increases safety
or not, it certainly makes people feel safer;
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Landscapes - Winter 2013
Excitable Photons in the Ether | Photons affolés
99 Red Balloons | Light by the Barrel | Something Old, Something New | Cambridge Lights Up | Emptyful
We are Modern Day Lamplighters | Les allumeurs de réverbères modernes ….
The Lights Come Up on 3 Exceptional Landscapes | Les lumières s’allument sur trois paysages exceptionnels
Champ-de-Mars: Shedding Light on History | La lumière au service de l’histoire
To Infinity and Beyond! | Par delà l’infini!
The Gros Morne Challenge | Le défi de Gros-Morne
Cypress Hills: Land of the Living Skies | Cypress Hills : où le ciel s’anime
Urban Parks: To Light or Not to Light? | Parcs urbains : doit-on les éclairer? ….
Lightitude: Lighting Under a Capricious Sky | Lightitude : éclairer sous un ciel capricieux
A Pragmatist’s Guide | Guide pragmatique
Three Riffs on Custom Design | Trois approches du design personnalisé
Seeing Light | Voir la lumière
Representing Landscapes, Ed. Nadia Amoroso.
Game Changers | Nouvelle donne : quatre decennies en lumiere
Landscapes - Winter 2013