Historic Urban Settings, LED Illumination and its Impact on Nighttime Perception, Visual Appearance, and Cultural Heritage Identity.
Zielinska-Dabkowska, Karolina M.
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Many cities, towns and villages around the world have adopted new Lighting Emitting Diode (LED) technology in order to save energy, operational and maintenance costs. While energy-efficient, these light sources have a critical effect on the appearance of historic sites at night – and the technology has unique properties and numerous inherent drawbacks that present challenges to decision makers as well as inexperienced lighting professionals. This paper uses practice-based research, critical analysis of literature, interviews and observations to investigate the various issues involved with the application of LED lighting and proposes methods to address them. Lighting factors that impact nighttime perception and the visual appearance of cities as living structures are assessed, and European historic urban settings have been analyzed, including feedback from residents and tourists about their nighttime perception of the physical environment. The following research question is also answered, namely; if it’s possible to work with the numerous drawbacks of existing LED technology to create and design quality spaces that support cultural heritage values after the sun sets? Additionally, photographic analysis is provided to demonstrate how to prevent the loss of specific ambience and associated cultural heritage inherited from past generations via an example of successful lighting in a real life, detailed case study of Najac village in France. This paper highlights the importance of best lighting practices, guidance from professional lighting designers, and lighting strategies for the future to ensure appropriate external illumination is achieved. Moreover, municipalities, heritage officers, and planners are introduced to effective, practical and responsible ways to adopt this new form of lighting. Although the term ‘cultural heritage’ has changed its meaning in recent decades, the authors propose that the nighttime ambience of historic urban settings be included in this definition. Not only does the appearance and atmosphere of a place at night establish a foundation of identity that interconnects people from different cultures, it is especially important for nighttime tourism. For this reason, cultural heritage should include physical elements of the built environment such as monuments, archaeological sites and historic urban settings that are inherited, maintained and preserved for the benefit of future generations by day and by night.
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