One must never underestimate the impact a good lighting design can have on a public space - particularly one as important as the Avenue of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA. However, it’s not a project to be undertaken lightly – there are costs, timings, maintenance and even environmental matters to take into consideration. City District was the organization that led the challenge to enhance the vitality of the City Center. They chose to work with The Lighting Practice for the installation, and with Philips Lighting for the most advanced, imaginative and energy efficient solution, in the form of LEDs. But let’s get back to basics - how can a lighting solution improve a city?
Walking along the Avenue of the Arts is uplifting. Imagine being there on December 17 back in 2008 when the lighting project was launched, to see the dazzling Philips ColorGraze™ Powercore and ColorBlast® Powercore fixtures transform the streetscape into a multi-colored canvas. Its scale and grandeur would’ve made you feel like you were somewhere really special. What’s more, the lighting program can be changed nightly, to match the city’s event calendar, so potentially every night could feel extra special.
The excellent quality LED lighting ensures not just a feeling of safety, but creates a sense of real security. The avenue is proudly inhabited and visited by people who are reassured of the value the City of Philadelphia has put into this significant cultural precinct. The selected LED luminaires project light exactly where it is needed, and that means illuminating areas that might otherwise feel less safe if blanketed in darkness.
Entertainment options from this system are endless. One time, the display was synchronized to the score of The Nutcracker, with color-changing lighting that danced across the buildings! In between the sound and light shows, coordinated lighting changes moved up and down the building façades. In this way, the excitement of the avenue’s theater and performance spaces can be transferred to the street anytime the sun goes down.
The project leaders felt it was important to keep the lighting environmentally friendly. They selected LED luminaires because of their energy efficiency and ability to minimize the light pollution caused by traditional façade lighting. In collaboration with Philips, a project was developed to illuminate the outside of City Hall with ColorReach™ Powercore, a high-performance architectural floodlight, which provided color-changing and dynamic effects on the 548 ft (167 m) municipal building. With more than 5,000 lumens of output and unprecedented light projection of over 500 ft (152 m), ColorReach Powercore brilliantly illuminated the stately structure with vibrant colors - while curbing energy use and reducing maintenance. The Avenue of the Arts lighting installation is controlled by Philips Light System Manager (LSM), an integrated system consisting of a wirelessly controlled controller hardware and creative design light show software. It’s the flexibility to plan impressive events like this, which encourage visitors to an area, that contributes to healthy development and growth for a city. All the while, doing it in a way that’s kind to the environment - and to the municipality’s pocket.
Light to encourage dancing on the streets
The colorful lighting transforms the Avenue of the Arts night after night and can be easily adjusted for major events. For example, when the Philadelphia Eagles football team was in the 2009 playoffs, the lights turned team-green to support the team. Every year on Valentine’s Day, romantic red-hued lights bring a hint of romance to the ‘City of Brotherly Love’. Regardless of the great cost savings, energy efficiency and environmental benefits for the city, these unexpected, visual and ambient surprises are surely reason enough for a visitor to whistle a happy tune on their next visit Philadelphia by night - maybe if that visitor’s you, you won’t resist kicking up your heels under the colorful, inspiring lighting along the Avenue of the Arts!
Do you have any City installation examples that have had a similar impact on public spaces?