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The value of urban lighting

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This week I picked up the Philips Hue lighting system. For those of you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a connected home lighting system. All you need are a Philips Bridge (which hooks up to your wireless router); a smartphone; and whatever bulbs, lightstrips and fixtures you want to use with it. It also works seamlessly with the Apple Home app.

At first I was a bit nervous that it would turn my place into a cheesy nightclub. But as soon as I powered it on and started messing around with the Hue app, I was blown away by the quality of the light and the options. There are settings for reading, to simulate a sunset, and so on. You can schedule routines, such as a bedtime lighting scheme, and you can even color match a photo to find exactly the light you want.

After playing around a bit, I then sent out an obligatory tweet saying that I was now hooked on and obsessed with the Philips Hue lighting system. Trust me, it’s really cool. My friend Andrew then responded saying that he doesn’t get it. Why would anyone want a color of light besides “white?” To me, this is like asking: Why would anyone want to see a beautiful sunrise or sunset? The sun should just appear or disappear using one consistent color.

In a city like Toronto where most of us in the winter will wake up when it’s dark and come home from work when it’s dark, I have always believed that we should be more creative and daring with the way we light our city, our buildings, and our public spaces. We don’t want to be kitschy about it, but there’s an opportunity to maximize our darker months and enhance the overall urban experience.

The CN Tower is a perfect example. Its night lighting has completely changed how we view it and has become a beacon for what is going on in this city. I can see it clearly from my elevator lobby and I always look to see what color it is. I’m not great at picking out when it’s Rett Syndrome Awareness Month, but I can usually tell when there’s a game going on.

Now my place is certainly not the CN Tower. And there’s only one CN Tower in the world. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get fun and creative in other ways within the shared walls of the public realm. We should do that. Let’s not be so conservative.

If any of you have great examples of urban lighting, please share it in the comments below. Perhaps we can all use it as inspiration to make a change.

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