Standardised difference: Challenging uniform lighting through standards and regulation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Artificial lighting has received increased attention from urban scholars and geographers in recent years. It is celebrated for its experimental aesthetics and experiential qualities and critiqued for its adverse effects on biological life and the environment. Yet scholars and practitioners unite in their disapproval of uniform and homogenous lighting that follows from standardised lighting technologies and design principles. Absent from debates in urban scholarship and geography, however, is any serious consideration of how lighting designers respond to such standardised measures and regulations. In this article, I address this lack of academic attention by exploring how designers overturn the restrictive challenges posed by the standards and regulations of the design and planning process. Drawing on interviews with designers involved in the lighting design of a mixed-use redevelopment project in Canning Town, East London, I demonstrate how the interpretation and translation of lighting standards and regulations resist the tendency to predetermine design aesthetics and functions. By drawing attention away from the technical specifications and numerical values that are prescribed in standards and regulations, and towards lighting’s experiential and performative effects, the article argues that lighting designers can play an important role in challenging how standards and regulations are measured, defined and maintained. Calling on urban scholars to play a more prominent role in foregrounding this process of translation, I suggest that standards and regulations can provide frameworks within which luminous differentiation and preservation of darkness can be achieved, playing a potentially crucial role in ensuring a socially and environmentally sustainable transition to energy efficient lighting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1957-1976
Number of pages20
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number9
Early online date19 Sep 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020

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