Keyword Site Search

Renaissance of Light by Heather Lebus Architectural shape, orientation and placement of street luminaires and furnishings have become a prevailing strategy to change drivers' and pedestrians' perceptions-- and use-- of streetscapes across the country. Indeed, their placement influences modern-day perceptions and enjoyment of nostalgic days gone past. More and more across the nation, Landscape Architects and city planners are collaborating to restore the historic grandeur and colorful vibrancy of landscapes and boulevards. While the downtown areas of many American cities have deteriorated as businesses and residents have headed for the suburbs, Newark, Ohio-- a city of 45,000 located about 45 minutes northeast of Columbus-- has continued to flourish. Much of the city's success in attracting people to the downtown has been a conscious effort to beautify the Courthouse Square and surrounding areas. "The Square is like a front yard for people who live and work downtown," explains Terry Mooney, Program Coordinator, Community Development, City of Newark. A high volume of foot traffic on the Square at night led to the decision to illuminate the walkways and the stairs to the Courthouse. Lighting fixtures installed are Holophane Granville(R) units with 175-watt metal halide lamps. These historic-looking fixtures feature an advanced optical system for precise light control, meaning the fixtures provide illumination where it is needed. The borosilicate glass reflector will not discolor because of heat or exposure to the sun. Mooney explains, "We chose these fixtures for their period appearance that complements the look of the sandstone courthouse. And, because of the light control provided by the fixtures, we were able to light the entire Square with a minimum of fixtures-- and without removing any trees." In Alabama, Samford Park is the "front porch" of sorts for the sprawling historic campus of Auburn University. The 12-acre park is situated along the main corridor-- College Street-- in front of the administrative building, Samford Hall. "The park and the entire area is the first thing people see when they make the transition from the city to the campus," describes Carl Gagliano, Electrical Engineer, Facilities Division, Auburn University. After Hurricane Opal caused extensive damage to the park in 1995, university administrators decided to renovate the area. Trees that had been ravaged (some as old as 100 years) were removed, and new plantings were made. The revitalization also called for retrofitting the lighting-- previously a combination of plastic and glass fixtures installed on short wooden poles, supplemented with fixtures installed in the trees. Only a portion of the units was operational, which meant security lighting was spotty, at best. The system selected for the retrofit includes 100-watt high-pressure sodium lamps. Sixty fixtures are mounted on 10-foot cast iron poles. These units help re-create the historic look of the campus, which was constructed prior to the Civil War. Their attractive glass globes and pinkish color cast by the lamps blend well with the red brick, High Victorian, and Romanesque-style buildings. The new fixtures are proving they can withstand the rigors of campus life, which include collisions with footballs and bicycles, and vandalism. Gagliano enthuses, "We feel there has been a significant improvement made-- both from an aesthetic standpoint and in product performance. Foot-candle levels are four to five times as great as what we had with the previous fixtures." In fact, the renovation has received a beautification award from the city. For many, strolling the brick walkways of the College of William and Mary is like stepping back in time. Ancient trees and red brick buildings reminiscent of eighteenth century architecture link the campus to neighboring Williamsburg, Virginia, once the capitol of Colonial America. Previously, walkways through the scenic 80-acre campus were lighted by mushroom-shaped fixtures with white plastic reflectors and 250-watt mercury vapor lamps. Illumination from the units-- installed 35 years ago-- tended to shine straight down, which had led to frequent requests for additional lighting fixtures to be installed between existing poles. "Because our main concern was student safety, we wanted lighting fixtures that would throw the illumination farther down the walkways, instead of directly around the poles," explains Lyle Wiggins, Electrical Supervisor for the college. Existing units were retrofit with new fixtures with either prismatic borosilicate glass or polycarbonate reflectors and 150-watt high pressure sodium lamps. Wiggins elaborates, "After the retrofit, we had the same number of fixtures, but twice the level of light. The new units are also more efficient, with energy usage reduced by almost a third." He continues, "These fixtures have a colonial look, so they fit well into the historic campus setting. The units have significantly increased the lighting on the walkways, which has eliminated further requests for additional fixtures, and we have received many compliments on the lighting." At the turn of the century, Grand Ledge, Michigan was popular as a health retreat for the nation's elite. Thousands flocked to the spas and hotels located on the scenic seven islands in the Grand River, which flows through the town center. Today, while the hotels have all disappeared, Grand Ledge cherishes its rich history and the architectural reminders of its past. The downtown district is a blend of Italianate, Victorian and Craftsman architecture; the focal point is a turn-of-the-century opera house located in the middle of town on the river. In an effort to rejuvenate the downtown district and bring more people to the area, the Grand Ledge Downtown Development Authority (DDA) was able to capture tax funds to support a 20-year infrastructure project that includes streetscaping and retrofit lighting. DDA launched a search for fixtures that would be different from any others in the state. "Many cities in Michigan are lighted with acorn-type fixtures," explains Wayne Withers, DDA Executive Director. "We wanted light poles that were not only unique and would complement the architecture in the district, but were sturdy enough to last. The fixtures also had to be able to spread the light sufficiently to illuminate the faces of the buildings." 1920s-style teardrop units that utilize 175-watt metal halide lamps were selected; they have a gooseneck at the top and banner arms, with a glass reflector in the top and luminaire panels that allow the fixtures to maintain their appearance at night. He enthuses, "Since the retrofit, the downtown district is bright and highly visible. The colors are also vivid and true, which is a benefit of the metal halide lamps." Indeed, the downtown district has earned the distinction of being named by the Lansing State Journal as the "brightest and cheeriest town in Michigan." In Chicago, bustling crowds and twinkling lights once characterized State Street, considered the city's shopping mecca during the 1920s and 1930s. In recent decades, however, the area's physical decline had sent customers scurrying to the variety offered by the burgeoning suburban shopping malls. After several intermittent makeovers, a nine-block area of State Street has undergone a visual transformation that has turned the street into an inviting public square reminiscent of its former days of glory. Consulting Landscape Architect Ted Wolff of Wolff Associates worked with lighting designer Jim Baney of Schuler & Shook on the $25 million renovation, which included new historically-styled lampposts and double-headed lighting fixtures that line the sidewalks in the mile-long stretch. The tavern green lampposts are steel and iron replicas of the ones designed specifically for the street in 1926; they are 30 feet high and are adorned with ornamental acanthus leaves and the distinctive "y" symbol that became the hallmark of Chicago's infrastructure early in the 20th century, representing the confluence of the north and south branches of the Chicago River. Lighting fixtures installed atop the poles are styled to resemble the acorn luminaires that graced many of America's city streets during the first half of the century. Lamps used are 250 watt, high color rendering, and high-pressure sodium. "An advantage of these fixtures is the prismatic glass optical system, which places the light where it is needed-- not as a glare, but as usable illumination. The fixtures create a warm, uniformly luminated environment," praises Bruce Worthington, City of Chicago, Department of Transportation. In 1997, the City of Monrovia, California wanted to historically replicate a style of lighting that was shown on the city streets in the early 1920s. Unfortunately, no lights existed. City Facilities Manager Dennis Shiflett worked directly with Sternberg Vintage Lighting. Coordinating the project was the Director of Public Works Robert Bammes and the lighting representatives at Calite & Design in Santa Ana, CA. With nothing else but an old photo to use, detail drawings of the base, pole and fixture were made by the manufacturer. The design was for a 5-globe Victorian fixture (one up and four down) on a 12' fluted pole, with a special Victorian designed base. A single Victorian globe on a 10' pole was also designed. Scott Thomas, Chairman of the Monrovia Historic Preservation Commission, "This quality vintage style streetlight uniquely reflects the City of Monrovia downtown area in the early century. While being very functional, they are a huge success from a historical perspective." Throughout the esplanades, plazas and streets of Battery Park and the World Financial Center in New York City, various luminaires stand silhouetted against the sky of the famed harbor. By day, their tulip contour and reserved detailing evoke 19th century Manhattan. By night, their brilliant light enables the enclave to continue as an active recreational facility well into the evening. Built to New York City's stringent specs for durability and vandal resistance, the structural components of the fixtures are of high-strength cast aluminum, the globe is polycarbonate and ballast assembly is installed deep within the cast base for maximum protection. All these attributes make it highly resistant to damage, weather and the passage of time. From the 1880s to the 1940s, Atlantic City was a major vacation resort, attracting thousands of visitors from New York City and Philadelphia who were eager to flee the hot city and enjoy the cool seashore. Atlantic City's Boardwalk, amusement parks, and beauty pageants were famous throughout the world. Then, in the 1950s, the availability of air travel shifted vacation traffic to Florida and the Caribbean; Atlantic City consequently began a period of decline in popularity and population. This decline continued until the legalization of gambling in 1976, and the opening of the first casino in 1978. The beachfront boardwalk is now lined with world famous casinos and resort hotels. Real estate values have increased by 100 times, and the annual number of visitors has swelled to over 30 million people. The Atlantic City Corridor project is working to adapt the city's infrastructure to accommodate these visitors and attract new visitors from around the world. Since all the beachfront property has been fully developed, these renewal efforts have focused on the "inner city entrance corridor"-- the area where the Atlantic City Expressway meets the city. Like any doorway, the corridor gives visitors their first impression of Atlantic City. Everything about the area's appearance-- especially its public lighting systems-- are therefore extremely important. For the street lighting design, Landscape Architects Miceli, Kulik, Williams and Associates worked with Horton-Lees Lighting Design to select a single system that offers durability, elegance and simple, uncluttered forms; a system that reflects the level of investment that the city has made in the corridor and blends in with the surroundings. They chose the Urbi 1 design system from Selux. "Atlantic City is synonymous with its night glitz, and is filled with neon, bright lights, and moving color," explains Barbara Cianci-Horton, IALD, President of Horton-Lees. "These fixtures provide an ideal contrast to the general night scene, delivering controlled brightness where it is needed-- on the park paths, on the roadways, and on pedestrian walkways. " The project also required an exterior lighting product with great details, that is easy to maintain, and can withstand the rigors of the salt air climate. In Bend, Oregon, a string of nine waterfront parks lies along the Deschutes River, which flows through the heart of town. The river ("deschutes" is French for "waterfall") offers fishing, tranquil views, and even a whitewater area right in town. Over the past three years, the Bend Metro Parks and Recreation District has been adding site furniture to some of the parks, including benches, trash receptacles, and drinking fountains. For outdoor lighting, they specified the Park Model System from W.J. Whatley. This system combines a smooth, tapered, and very strong fiberglass/composite shaft with a variety of arms, banner brackets, luminaires and base covers. The overall look is classic yet contemporary. "These parks along the river are natural sites that have a kind of history behind them," explains John Simpson, Landscape Architect and Director of Parks and Development for the district. "What we like about this fixture is that it pulls in a historical aspect without looking like a 'retro' reproduction." And, the City of Towson, Maryland recently completed a three-year, multi-jurisdictional, multi-million dollar revitalization of its main street commercial core. The multidisciplinary design team of DMW, Inc. faced four key design challenges: linking the older retail district to a newer mall, integrating existing and proposed utilities, providing safe routes for both vehicles and pedestrians, and creating an attractive night ambiance for residents of adjacent universities and neighborhoods. One unique element is a roundabout at a chronically congested five-way intersection in the heart of the city. According to Project Manager Fritz Behlen, RLA, lighting is a key element of this revitalization effort. The State Highway Administration (SHA) wanted tall, bright lights; the design team wanted pedestrian scale decorative fixtures. DMW demonstrated to the SHA that the smaller fixtures would provide a higher level of illumination more evenly distributed, and that were more compatible with the classic character of Towson. The design also includes accent lighting for historic buildings and other architectural features and supplemental wiring for holiday lighting throughout the revitalization area. Across the nation, gracious streetscapes pay homage to their historic buildings and landscapes. These lighting renovations support each city's ongoing renaissance-- and transform downtown centers into exciting and wonderfully different great streets. lasn

Search Site by Story Keywords

Related Stories

June 17, 2019, 8:40 am PDT

Website problems, report a bug.
Copyright © 2019 Landscape Communications Inc.
Privacy Policy