Creating visual comfort and intrigue in an urban environment

Sept. 20, 2023
Ambient luminescence, focal glow, and a "play of brilliants" provide visual comfort at a neighborhood plaza in Tzur Itzhak, Israel.
When architect and lighting designer Dr. Rebeka Vital was recruited to illuminate a public square in central Israel, she knew the key to delivering a beautiful and resilient urban environment was visual comfort. To that end, she aimed to craft a design that incorporated elements of ambient luminescence, focal glow, and a "play of brilliants," as first described by the legendary lighting designer Richard Kelly in 1952.

“Rather than creating luminance all over the place, I created areas of ambient luminance and areas of play of brilliants with the bollards,” she relates. “I also brought decorative elements inside the plaza, and a focal glow to accentuate specific elements in the hardscape.”

For the ambient luminance, Vital specified 5-meter-tall, 48-watt post lights with rotationally symmetrical light distribution from the German manufacturer BEGA. “The light travels in a radial manner from the amphitheater into the plaza,” she explains.

For the next layer, she created a play of brilliants, which refers to decorative elements that catch the eye. Vital selected BORA decorative bollards, from Belgian lighting manufacturer Schréder, to define the boundaries of the amphitheater. These decorative lighting bollards create visual interest with their perforated surface and offer high levels of visual comfort through their mix of white, amber, and blue LEDs.

According to Kelly, “Focal glow is the follow spot on the modern stage. It is the pool of light at your favorite reading chair. Focal glow draws attention, pulls together diverse parts, and helps people see.” In Tzur Itzhak, Dr. Vital used the concept of focal glow to accentuate the hardscape. Waterproof LED strips embedded in the amphitheater steps and 32-centimeter by 7-centimeter, 11-watt LED BEGA steplights create a beautiful radiance in the visual environment. Milky LED strips incorporated between the beams of the pergola illuminate nearby benches, while downlit columns deliver a beam of concrete effect. “The product defines the background, relates to the focal glow and accentuates elements within the plaza,” she explains.

From an energy efficiency standpoint, Vital explains that the two main lighting choices for outdoor areas are LEDs and discharge lamps. However, for public architectural spaces, LED is the source of choice.

“LEDs are much easier to control. There’s no warmup time and the color rendering index (CRI) can be high,” she says. She typically specifies lamps with CRIs exceeding 80, but greater than 90 CRI is possible. For the color temperature, Vital chose warm 3000K light to create a cozier atmosphere for the residential area.

Today, the square is a gathering place for local residents where children ride their bicycles and play while enjoying the attractive public space.

This article appeared in the May 2022 issue of Architectural SSL magazine.

About the Author

Barbara Horwitz-Bennett

Barbara Horwitz-Bennett has more than 25 years as a trade press journalist and writer in the building and construction industry. Her articles regularly appear in several leading architectural publications. 

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