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Monuments of Light

The formality of this Canary Island Date Palm at the Shops at Bel Harbour is silhouetted by highlighting the texture of the two-story backdrop. The result of this lighting technique is not only an artistic statement in itself, but can also be used to simulate a sunrise or sunset sky, creatively altering the mood or the landscape. PHOTO by Emilio Fuster - Bradshaw, Bill, Fuster & Assoc.

Lightscaping, a relatively new word, describes an area of the Landscape Architect's practice which provides both a challenge and an opportunity to add a whole new dimension to the old art of landscape architecture.

Traditionally, the landscape architect was subject to the light and shadow patterns imposed by nature during the sunlight hours. Exterior lighting was an almost purely utalitarian technology of providing area lighting for the purpose of safety and security. A certain amount of design consideration went into the style and scale of the light post itself, which became part of the streetscape, but mostly appreciated during daytime.

The dramatic lighting of a corporate sign can convey the strength and durability of the company behind the name. Incredibly, in a relfector/internal glare shield technique exclusive to the manufacturer, the sixty-foot sign is lit with only two 100 watt metal halide lamps. With horizontal spot distribution and internal glare shield, the fixtures can be strategically placed about fifteen feet in front of the sign and cover a wide horizontal plane without producing an excess spill of light. PHOTO by Clinton Wade - Hydrel.

Borrowing from the old art of stage lighting, more Landscape Architects are now exploring the opportunities of controlling the look and mood of the nighttime landscape environment. This is especially important for the image of upscale retail, main entrances, corporate headquarters, and residential properties. Uniform area lighting gives way to ambiance lighting, where the good features are accentuated, the weaknesses are played down, and a new character emerges after dark.

By using a black pole base, the lights from the two direct burial units focus one's attention to the vertical information columns, detailing the history of the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Marines and other armed services. Against the cover of a darkening sky, one is struck by the impact of the American military throughout history, as the jet place at the center appears to dart out of its base. PHOTO by Lloyd Reeder - Greenlee Lighting, Inc.

The Waterside Shops at Pelican Bay in Naples, Florida by Bradshaw, Gill, Fuster and Associates, Landscape Architects, is an example of "theme" retailing. Marketed for an affluent population of mostly empty-nesters, this small upscale suburban specialty shopping center attracts a steady flow of clientele. At daytime, this open-air, one-story mall focuses inwards towards a lushly landscaped central lagoon with waterfalls, rapids, 1,000 tons of Alabama ledge rock, and a half acre of pristine water with river rock bottom. This park-like green tropical paradise changes at night into a fantasy land of shimmering reflections.

The different colored lights shown here are examples of why a landscape architect needs to be aware of the numerous types of luminaires. The trees along the pathway, uplit in a mercury-vapor, bluish-green tint, would look lifeless if they were lit by the yellow hue of a HPS lamp that so effectively lights the brick archway. PHOTO by Lloyd Reeder - Greenlee Lighting, Inc.

In addition to uplighting the major plant material (mostly clusters of large palms) with low-voltage halogen quartz floods and spots, the feature lighting was concentrated as underwater 300 and 500 watt quartz lights under the waterfalls and adjacent rock formations. The rest of the lagoon, due to its size and tranquility, was left as a reflective surface for the storefronts across the water.

By uplighting both of these structures located so close together, a single entity is created, conveying a single theme. Taken separately, a powerful statement can be made by a flag waving at night within a beam of light. One's country, state, or corporate seal, can be proudly uplit with a direct burial light, floodlight, or spotlight fixture. The detail and texture of the statue is enhanced by uplighting. The shadows crated on the uplit face of the statue result in a completely different expression than that created by a downward beam of sunlight. PHOTO by Lloyd Reeder - Greenlee Lighting, Inc.

In addition to beautifying a project, landscape lighting has several other purposes. The uplighting of these mature palms not only invitingly guides a client into the complex, but provides a natural boundary as well as comforting security. PHOTO by Emilio Fuster - Bradshaw, Bill, Fuster & Assoc.

There are various techniques for exterior ambiance lighting. Uplighting of large plant material is the most commonly used. Since we are accustomed to light sources coming from above, this method of illuminating from the ground up creates a kind of supernatural, nevertheless very effective feeling. Texture or color or both can be emphasized with the appropriate use of lamp-type and spread of the cone of light. Palm trees have as much interest in their trunks as the fronds above; a narrow beam spot lamp placed close to tall Coconuts and Dates will enhance the character of their bark and give a soft glow to the crowns. In the milder climates of Florida and the Southwest, lines of uplit matched Palms provide striking effect and give nighttime identity and directional flow to main entrances. The warm tones of quartz (halogen, incandescent or coated metal halide are ideal; high pressure sodium will also intensify the yellow/red hues of some trunks but will subdue the green in the fronds. For foliage trees, mercury vapor lamps intensify the green of the leaves. Color rendition differences is therefore a primary consideration when selecting lamp types for a desired effect.

This close-up of a tree shows the effect uplighting foliage with a mercury vapor light source. By uplighting the tree, there will be no shadow below; however, shadowplay definitely has its artistic value at many times. PHOTO by Emilio Fuster - Bradshaw, Bill, Fuster & Assoc.

For mature trees with open foliage and interesting branching character, an increasingly popular lighting technique is called "moonlighting." With the use of special trunk mounting hardware, flood lamps (2 or 3) can be attached to the upper branches and pointed down; this provides a soft glow through the foliage, highlights the branches and creates patterns of lights and shadows on the ground. Due to their small luminaire size and thin cables, low voltage lamps such as the MR-16 are especially appropriate for "moonlighting."

The sign, water sculptures, and palms all have characteristics that are unique and must be considered individually when choosing methods of illumination. However, when each is effectively lit, one can collectively produce a powerful statement. PHOTO by Emilio Fuster - Bradshaw, Bill, Fuster & Assoc.

Architectural elements such as sign monuments or building walls can be washed with light to identify the place, enhance the texture of the building material (stone or brick) or provide a uniform background against which plant material or other interesting shapes can be silouetted. Special features of the exterior nightscape such as fountains, gazebos, trellises, sculptures or specific architectural details can be accented by the use of spot lighting; with the recent development of lamps with very narrow beams (down to 5 degrees in some cases), a feature can be lit from a remote luminaire location, creating a very special effect.

The view of the main lagoon and central gazebo of the Waterside Shops at Pelican Bay, was taken from the top of one of the waterfalls. The underwater lighting (300 W halogen) is concentrated under the falling water which makes it glow at the top. The character of the rock outcrop is enhanced by the placement of the fixtures very close to the base. PHOTO by Emilio Fuster - Bradshaw, Bill, Fuster & Assoc.

Another traditional method of illuminating pedestrian paths is with bollards or low level ("mushroom") fixtures. These have light cut-off devices which allow the prevention of glare and concentrate the illumination of the pavement surface itself without competing with other feature lighting around.

The majority of the store fronts are oriented to the central water theme, either the large lagoon or the more intimate scale of the upper water sources. A total elevation difference between the upper and lower water levels gives the opportunity for rapids and free-falling water, which is the main focus of the illumination. PHOTO by Emilio Fuster - Bradshaw, Bill, Fuster & Assoc.

With a half shield accessorizing the direct burial units, the light can be directed solely up the poles to the flags waving above. When deciding on a beam spread, the Landscape Architect must be sure to engulf the entire area of the flag. In this photo, the American flag requires a wider beam than the smaller Texas and Park Central flags with the result being a single patriotic statement. PHOTO by Lloyd Reeder - Greenlee Lighting, Inc.

Current trends in lightscaping include string lights and fiber optics. If properly used, closely spaced string lights can turn the trunk and branches of a tree into a glittering light sculpture; unfortunately, it is sometimes overdone with the results being more honky-tonk than nature enhancement. The newest of the exterior lighting tools is fiber optics, a cluster of mono-filament from a concealed light source. It has a wide range of applications, such as stair riser soft illumination, pool coping definition, and the creation of light patterns epoxy-imbedded in the floorscape. It has the potential of being used under water in swimming pools since there are no electrical currents in it at all, and the only limitation seems to be the distance the light can travel from the source (100" + id recommended).

The trees, with their direct burial uplights, present an interesting foreground to the brightly lit sculptures in the interior of the project. PHOTO by Lloyd Reeder - Greenlee Lighting, Inc.

There are other more technical considerations in lightscaping, such as lamp efficiency, energy consumption, lamp life, vandalism exposure, operating temperature (hazardous to the touch), compactness (some HID fixtures have bulky ballast boxes), and the material's resistance to environmental conditions (i.e. ground water and salt spray). n addition to Waterside Shops, other photographs of Bel Harbour Shops and L'Ambiance (Longboat Key) help illustrate some of the lightscape concepts described.

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October 20, 2019, 5:54 pm PDT

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