Salus journal

Healthy Planet. Healthy People.

Cities / Healthy Cities

Healthy City Design 2019

The Nighttime Design Initiative

By Joana Mendo and Leni Schwendinger 25 Nov 2019 0

Despite concerns about the proliferation of 24-hour cities, no holistic planning approach exists for the dark hours and their characteristics. This talk considers an initiative around nighttime design.

Download the slides for this video presentation


Are cities serving their citizens when night travels are considered unsafe? How can public space usage, crucial to health during the day, be improved at night? For those working the night shift, is it safe to traverse during these hours?

Current research on city nights can be defined in three areas:

  • nighttime economy, with focus on entertainment, citizens’ behaviours, urban policy and cultural planning;
  • events and festivals, which increase cultural offerings and tourism; and
  • lighting masterplans, by city membership organisations and planning practitioners, setting standards.

These areas have two cross-cutting trends: concern about energy efficiency and improvement in lighting technologies. Nighttime design diverges in that it’s inclusive of all these dimensions.

Purpose and methods: The greater vision for safety, public health and local economies is the prime mover. Our mission has been to further develop qualitative and quantitative transdisciplinary research and implementation, city by city. Our efforts are materialised in pilot projects that widen the uptake of nighttime design application on a greater scale.

Lighting improvements affect safety in cities, namely crime and accidents. The visible act of care from a city authority improves the perception of place, while increasing confidence, shown to reduce crime. Better lighting with transport policies reduces accidents. When vulnerable citizens (children, elders, women) enjoy after-dark public space, streets are safer for everyone. Walkability and sociability are key nighttime health foci. Illumination encourages pedestrian use. Blending light with cultural planning can help attract people to public space, resulting in health benefits.

A market push for uptake in smart digital technologies, which rely on light poles as hosts for sensors, city services, data collection and surveillance has already started. But commercial interest and understanding of the actual effect of nighttime lighting is minimal.

With suitable training and principles, new lighting will not only save more energy but also contribute to the enjoyment of nightlife, and help with organisation and governance in the hours of darkness.