My Oulu: Well-designed lighting makes a city more comfortable and attractive

Urban lighting strives to restrain light pollution but also keep the environment safe and accessible. Picture: City of Oulu

My Oulu

Julkaistu: Kirjoittaja: Merja Haukipuro (translation: Joel Loukkola)

Jaa sosiaalisessa mediassa:

The city of Oulu is on the frontlines in the research of the effects of light on the cityscape and the well-being of citizens. These matters are handled in the international LUCI Network. Oulu was invited to join the network’s executive board this spring.

The city of Oulu got admitted into the executive board of the international urban lighting network LUCI, which assembled in April in Montpellier, France. Oulu has been an active operator in the LUCI Network since 2015. There are cities, lighting professionals, businesses and universities from all continents in the network.

“Out of the city of Oulu’s lighting network’s interest groups, the University of Oulu has also joined the LUCI Network and has been an active member for a couple of years”, explains the city of Oulu’s Innovation Manager Olli Rantala.

Rantala states that the annual general assembly of the LUCI Network was held last year in Jyväskylä. Now, to replace Jyväskylä in the executive board, the Nordic countries will be represented by Oulu and Helsinki.

Through the LUCI Network and cooperation with the university, the city of Oulu can reinforce its lighting competence. Businesses with their own lighting solutions have also participated in different projects, and their solutions can be utilized in the city’s future implementations.

City of Oulu’s Innovation Manager Olli Rantala is the representative of Oulu in the international LUCI Network. Photo: Henrika Pihlajaniemi

Rantala explains that Oulu introduces the challenges of Arctic conditions into the discussions of urban lighting. The network advances sustainable development, environmental responsibility and safety in the field of lighting.

“In Oulu, the Urban and Environmental Services is responsible for lighting. It has presented its innovations and development through traffic lighting as well as safe and sustainable urban lighting.”

On top of the LUCI Network’s executive board, the city of Oulu is a part of committees focusing on light pollution and general urban lighting planning.

From light pollution to art

The significance of light is highlighted in Oulu with light art, most visibly in the Lumo Light Festival.

“When the city of Oulu applied for the title of European Capital of Culture for the first time for the year 2011, the Oulu15 Project was executed to enhance urban culture in the city after the application process. A part of the project was the participatory Väriä Oulu survey, in which the citizens expressed their wish for more diverse visibility through lighting in the city. The Lumo Light Festival was born based on the expressed wish. The Light Festival works in strong collaboration with the LUCI Network in which the Lyon Light Festival is a significant event”, Rantala explains.

Lumo Light Festival makes light art visible in the cityscape annually. Photo: Oulun kameraseura

He brings up an example of utilizing art in Seoul, South Korea. Their representative presented their urban lighting solution in the latest LUCI Network assembly in France.

“In Seoul, amounts of light pollution are regulated and they have incorporated human-centric ideas through art to ensure that the light does not bother or shine in the eyes of people. Seoul’s urban lighting plan expresses how the city is made more comfortable and attractive through light. Light art has become a popular way to implement city lighting in Asia.”

Rantala hopes that Finland’s cities would take into account the opportunities of light art in the cityscape. Rantala thinks that light art could be produced, for example, as percentage art. A percentage portion of the city budget would be designated to light artists for public projects.

Oulu’s technological competence has been utilized in the cooperation network, for example, in a project where Turin, Lyon and Oulu developed in collaboration a map service that made light art a visible part of urban lighting. According to Rantala, the service offers detailed information about light art that cannot be found on other map services.

The goal is easy everyday life

Light art can be used to prevent light pollution and promote accessibility.

“The requirements of accessibility are highlighted in public areas where good visibility is needed”, Rantala states.

The University of Oulu is currently working on a project called Kestävän pimeän kumppanuudet (Partnerships of sustainable darkness) which studies and develops solutions to create a new strategic approach to urban lighting planning that acknowledges the value of darkness and dimness. The city of Oulu participates in the project and Rantala acts as the spokesperson of the control group.

According to Rantala, the shared goal of the cooperation network is easy and fluent everyday life for the citizens. The effect of light on well-being is clear to see.

“For example, winter blues can be treated with bright lights. As a trial, there is a piece of light art in Toronto with a large bright light bulb in a central urban area”, Rantala says.

Understanding the significance of light and light pollution has become an important part of Rantala’s free time as well. His family regularly spectates northern lights and practices astrophotography.