The people of Lyons pay careful attention to everyday lighting and they want to understand it, says Marsick. That is why the Department and other organisations need to transmit a culture of light to the public.
Building a culture of light is not an easy goal and it is not something that can be achieved once and for all. Lyons has been working in this direction since 1989, when it launched its pioneering Lighting Plan
, which is now used as a benchmark in both Europe and around the world. In the same year, the Festival of Lights developed from a popular tradition into an event where artists and designers created spectacular lighting projects specifically designed to interact with the urban context.
Since then the progress of the Lighting Plan can be divided into two fifteen-year periods. In the first, which stretched from about 1989 to the year 2000 the focus was on “exploiting the town’s spectacular characteristics”, which was the exact title of the plan. In other words, Lyons was treated like a theatre whose treasures could be enhanced by viewing lighting in terms of aesthetics and not just as something functional. “This operation didn’t just focus on the town’s heritage”, explains Marsick, “but also on its natural elements like the rocks and plants on the hills”.
In the early 2000s “concerns regarding sustainable development arose and the quest to create environmentally friendly lighting began”, continues Marsick. There was also a greater focus on the “financial” role of light. So, the second Lighting Plan, drafted in 2004, included creating a closer bond between the lighting system, its uses and the needs of those working in the district in question.
The second fifteen-year period has just come to an end and the Department of Urban Lighting is currently laying the foundations of a third Lighting Plan. “We are currently investigating requirements and forms of use, as well as researching the bond between public and private lighting systems that coexist sometimes harmoniously and sometimes less so”.
Once again with the aim of creating a diffuse light culture, Lyons conducts its own analyses via participation. “We organise lots of meetings in the local area”, says Marsick, “and opportunities for the inhabitants to share their different perceptions of light. Last November, for example, we began talking to the inhabitants of a district of Lyons to understand their feelings about their local area, the places in it and what role a lighting system can play both positively and negatively. We often organise walks with citizens to understand what works and what doesn’t in situ. We also talk a lot about bad lighting and how to improve it”.