“Temporality Is Essential to Mastering Energy Consumption,” Antoine Bouchet, former director of urban lighting for the City of Lyon from 2003 to 2012. Memories from four decades of light.
At the end of March 2014, I had the pleasure of interviewing Antoine Bouchet. This great professional leaves us “a non-exhaustive approach to lighting the City of Lyon, but with a little bit of an Impressionist touch,” he explains.
Vincent Laganier: How did you get started with lighting?
Antoine Bouchet: Was it fate? Just to tell you a little story, after my baccalaureate in electronics, I had already heard of lighting. It was during my last year of studying engineering at Marseille’s EEIM School of Industrial Electricity from 1972-73, with one hour of instruction per week …
VL: When did you start with public lighting for the City of Lyon?
AB: In December 1975, Michel Bouit, who was director then, hired me and put me in charge of the office of technical studies of the Department of Public Lighting – DEP – of the City of Lyon. This new public service, a precedent at the time, was a first for the city.
VL: How did the lighting scheme for the Tony Garnier Hall come about?
AB: In 1986, the lighting designer Louis Clair had proposed lighting all the triangular trusses, from one beam to the other, face on. For the trials, DEP had bridged between gaps of more than one meter. The objective was to line up the light sources, as seen from far away, from the ground level of the hall. It was by placing a projector by mistake on the inside of the truss, thus creating a silhouette effect, that Louis Clair changed his lighting scheme. The effect is still visible in the hall today.
VL: What was your main role during the first lighting plan?
AB: I helped with the implementation of the first lighting plan for Lyon, starting from 1989, particularly with the creation of two electrical lines for movable lights. The objective was to completely and quickly change the image of the city in order to make it more coherent, as much during daytime as nighttime. It was one of my main jobs.
VL: You were director of public lighting in 2003. This new position coincided with the second lighting plan.
AB: The second lighting plan was implemented in continuity with the first. But also with a different design, methodology and direction. In particular, we wanted to free ourselves from the idea of the monument in order to see the street and daily happenings. As far as our direction was concerned, we emphasized:
- Attention to areas through lighting plans for neighborhoods;
- New jobs, like developing for the long-term, but also creativity, temporality, or building a sphere of competence around lighting;
- Working with lighting studios on all urban projects;
- The development of experimentation.
VL: What were the key achievements of the 2003-2012 period?
- The entrance to the city on Avenue Tony Garnier;
- The Rhone docks, redone from la Tete d’Or all the way to Confluence;
- The Saint-Just High School on the Fourviere hill, with an emphasis on rooftops;
- The tobacco manufacturers;
- The Duchere neighborhood;
- The Centre of Vaise;
- The wall-mounted fixtures in the city centre.
VL: On the subject of the optimization of public lighting, what did it involve in reality?
AB: We took four main steps:
- Replacing the wall-mounted fixtures in the city center and holding a performance-based competition, which was won by Sermeto for the console and Philips for the fixture;
- Replacing the optical sensor of the majority of the light poles in parks, gardens and public spaces. Its code name was LI4. We are talking about the indirect conical lanterns of the Wilmotte-City of Lyon range. They were equipped with a halogen lamp of 150 Watts, and despite a satisfactory output and a very pretty image, we were losing light around the edges. Since the RFP that Comatelec won, they became 60-70 Watt, 3000 K LEDs with perfect control over flux;
- A considerable reduction of the lighting nuisances by replacing all the fixtures considered decorative (spherical and cylindrical sconces) installed between 1975 and 1989 with direct and high-performance lights;
- Replacing all fountain projectors with LED fixtures by the Lyon company LEC.
VL: How did you introduce the concept of temporality in urban lighting?
AB: Why should we light things up? Should we light up year round and every night in the same way? It’s the object of the concept of temporality. Temporality is essential to mastering energy consumption. For all the new installations, as with the numerous existing installations, we were led to review the principles of controlling and separating the circuits in order to master lighting in the old days.
Therefore, we chose the Saint-Rambert neighborhood in order to implement the remote management of 1,500 to 2,000 lighting points. The idea was to use this neighborhood, equipped with lamps with different technologies (high pressure sodium, halogen, LED …), as a great urban laboratory. At the same time, we initiated various consultations in order to equip the streets with dimmable LEDs and to explore lighting that could detect human presence on different sites. Lyon’s INSA assisted us with a few of these programs under the umbrella term Evalum in order to analyze the results, starting from a user survey of the area.
VL: What is your best memory?
AB: There are too many to come up with a single one. We can only fundamentally understand light on-site, at night; that moment stands out above the rest in order to unmask functional processes from which all artifice has been removed, something that makes our activity as passionate an undertaking as it is unique.
VL: How do you see the evolution of urban lighting today?
AB: Three important points:
- Lighting is essential to people’s lives and happiness. Suppressing lighting in cities is absurd and inhuman;
- It is absolutely necessary to regulate urban lighting, introduce temporality through presence sensors in order to keep track of the rhythms of the city in its different spaces – for example, at 8 p.m., 10 p.m., midnight, 5 a.m., 8 a.m;
- It is necessary to make all the inhabitants partake in the definition, and above all, the life of their nocturnal environment. For 30 years, we have been lighting public spaces without enough of a concerted effort.
What other cities have elaborate lighting design departments and schemes that attract visitors and improve the resident’s lives?
Original article, published in French, can be found here.
Credit: Images and data linked to sources.