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Posted on December 20, 2018

Designing for Darkness: Urban Nighttime Lighting and Environmental Values

Invitation to 4TU.Ethics member Tayor Stone’s PhD Defence on 21st January 2019


4TU.Ethics colleagues are cordially invited to Taylor Stone’s PhD Defence. On 21st January he will present and defend his dissertation “Designing for Darkness: Urban Nighttime Lighting and Environmental Values.” Following the defence there will be a reception and a panel discussion with some of the committee on “Re-imagining the City at Night.” Please note that both the defence and the panel are public  (… so feel free to pass along to anyone who may be interested).

Monday 21 January 2019 @ 12:00 – PhD Defence of Taylor Stone (Senaatszaal, Aula, TU Delft) and @ 15:30 – Panel discussion (Commissiekamer 3, Aula, TU Delft)

PhD Defence

Designing for Darkness: Urban Nighttime Lighting and Environmental Values

Artificial illumination has had profound and far-reaching impacts on the development, use, and perceptions of urban nights, and has brought with it many benefits. However, in recent years its adverse costs and effects – commonly referred to as light pollution – have emerged as a topic of concern. Nighttime lighting uses enormous amounts of energy, costs billions of dollars annually, can be detrimental to the health of humans and ecosystems, and cuts off access to a starry night sky. Addressing these impacts, and more fundamentally understanding the underlying values shaping contemporary discourse, is a complex and pressing challenge with moral, aesthetic, political, and technical dimensions. This dissertation takes up this challenge by offering a critical examination of the historical roots and normative presuppositions shaping the concept of light pollution. This critique leads to the proposal of an alternative normative framework: instead of focusing on reducing lighting, it argues for fostering darkness in urban nightscapes. A designing for darkness approach is developed on two interrelated levels. The first is conceptual, exploring the relationship between darkness, illumination, and environmental values. The second is practical, proposing first steps towards realizing darker nights via the responsible design of new and emerging technologies, namely LEDs and autonomous vehicles. Taken together, the chapters of this dissertation weave together a critical investigation and constructive contribution to a pressing urban challenge for the 21st century.


Panel Discussion

Towards a Darker Future? Re-imagining the city at night

Monday 21 January 2019 Commissiekamer 3, Aula, TU Delft 15:30-17:00

Nighttime lighting is foundational to the design and use cities at night. Artificial illumination effectively creates the city at night, carving space and time out of darkness. New innovations to how we light cities can have far-reaching effects on issues such as sustainability, safety, commerce, nightlife and ‘24/7’ societies, mobility, and social justice. Yet, because of the immense scale and seeming permanence of our lighting, we take the existing infrastructure as a given. It all too easily fades into the backdrop of daily life, only noticed when it fails or during special events. But, what if that wasn’t so? What if we re-focused our attention on the generative force of urban lighting?

Imagine that we could flip a switch, and reset our nighttime lighting. What sort of urban nightscapes would we want for our future cities, and why? With new technologies on the horizon (e.g., smart systems, autonomous robotics, etc.), it is possible to design innovative lighting strategies and novel nighttime environments. But, what exactly should a “new” urban nightscape look like, and why? Should it be drastically different? What values (environmental, social, aesthetic) should inform and drive the technological innovation, design and policy choices, and use patterns? And, how can (and should) future visions be enacted? Through exploring these questions, we can start to envision a future of urban nights radically different from those of the 20th century.

Confirmed Panellists:

  • Prof. Jeroen van den Hoven, TU Delft
  • Prof. Carola Hein, TU Delft
  • Prof. Nick Dunn, Lancaster University
  • Prof. Andrew Light, George Mason University/World Resources Institute
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