Night-time Design Pilot, Colombia

Night-time Design Pilot, Colombia

EVENT: Best Creative Lighting Event

Night-time Design Pilot

Cartagena, Colombia

Arup, Despacio, LSE

Main Partners:
Leni Schwendinger, Andrés F Ramirez, Christoph Gisel, Joana Mendo – Arup (Project Lead); Dr. Don Slater – Configuring Light research group, London School of Economics (Academic partner for Social Research); Laura Mendoza, Carlosfelipe Pardo – Despacio (Local partner for Social Research); Utadeo (Local Academic partner for social research); iGuzzini (Lighting Manufacturer); Citelum (Project engineering, installation and financial contribution); Findeter (Financial partner and facilitator)

Main Sponsors:
Rosco, Whiteoptics, TU Cultura, Escuela Taller Cartagena de Indias, Camera de Comercio de Cartagena, CorpoTurismo Cartagena de Indias


Password: twinkle

During the darkened hours, light has the power to change the way we perceive a place, to make it more attractive, safer and more social, especially where diverse human groups, different histories and other identities meet. In the Getsemaní neighborhood of Cartagena, Colombia, a UNESCO designated world-heritage site where everyday life, cultural and touristic activities take place, identity is a crucial issue.

Here, interaction with a new kind of streetlight contributed to the cohabitation of public space. The aim was and is to move lighting up on the agenda of urban life to attract the attention of municipalities, consultants, researchers and developers of urban projects, showing how it is possible to change the social life of cities, respecting diversities and identities.

For a pre-pilot workshop, Arup and iGuzzini designed a universal lantern to deliver a soft and warm illumination emitted from a geometric, modern luminance in order to receive community design input. Lantern panels were customised with diffusors and filters to echo and reinforce the characteristics of place. We coined the term ‘localisation’ rather than customisation to describe this process of arriving at distinct lantern panels with citizen input to encapsulate cultural richness: the authentic value of the neighborhood and its inhabitants.

Despacio opened up the relationship between lighting and other infrastructures – specifically transport, mobility and pedestrianisation – so that we were thinking about night-time design rather than just lighting.

We would also like to mention CiudadMovilCartagena – they provided expert guidance on local politics, organisations, history; they gave us direct access to stakeholders; they provided creative and informed responses to our ideas and events; they gave us premises and space for convivial meetings.

The actual installation was made possible with the support of Citelum, which carried out the electrical installation and temporary mounting of the luminaires. On the afternoon preceding the pilot, the weather conditions made the challenge even bigger than expected, with time available for a dry install reduced to a minimum.

The clearest indication of making the street more ‘sociably legible’ at night was that the lighting was popular – people immediately recognised the lighting as embodying what made a successful street for them – the right levels of light, meaningful colour, lively ambience, respect for darkness, historical reference (both to lanterns in general and to popular light-related festivities). The placement of the lanterns was in keeping with the normal ‘rhythm’ or distribution of social gatherings up and down the streets of Getsemani and therefore supported the way in which people generally ‘read’ these streets. There was also a deeper and more important social legibility that many people commented on (often in very moving terms): lighting their street meant that it was noticed, was politically legible, that people actually cared about their street enough to materially attend to it. This was a very powerful kind of visibility.