The Urbanist

Urban lighting

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Cover art for The Urbanist

8 April 2021

Episode 495

30 minutes


Photo: Jörg Schubert/FLICKR

We might not think about it very often but high-quality urban lighting is a determining factor in how we experience our cities. In this episode we look at the history of light in urban environments, how they can make places safer and even nighttime design. Plus: how crucial lighting is in informal settlements.

8 April 2021

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Chapter 1

12 minutes


Photo: Alamy

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Chapter 1

The history of street lighting

Cover art for The Urbanist

We speak with Sandy Isenstadt, a professor of modern architecture at the University of Delaware and the author of ‘Electric Light: An Architectural History’, to help us to look at light as a building material in itself and the spaces that light has created in our cities.

12 minutes

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Chapter 2

9 minutes


Photo: Jörg Schubert/FLICKR

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Chapter 2

Nighttime design

Cover art for The Urbanist

The night accounts for half of our days, yet most cities fail to implement plans or infrastructure to make better use of the nighttime at all. Leni Schwendinger is an urban lighting and nighttime designer who has been focusing on what happens after the sun sets and how to use the city’s darkened hours better.

9 minutes

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Chapter 3

9 minutes


Photo: Alamy

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Chapter 3

Lighting informal settlements

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In informal settlements, lights play an important role – not only in terms of safety but also when it comes to providing a better quality of life. Stephanie Briers is from ETH Zürich’s Institute of Science, Technology and Policy, and has been working in South Africa on a project to test lighting solutions in the informal settlement of Khayelitsha.

9 minutes

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