Onassis Cultural Center

Monday 4th of November 2013

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The light art group BEFORELIGHT is organizing “Urban Lightscapes”, an open European Symposium, at the Onassis Cultural Center, on Monday 4th of November 2013, and invites academics, artists, scientists, lighting professionals and anyone interested to participate in presentations and open discussions.

The Symposium’s main themes are:

– The exploration of urban lighting: possibilities and limitations

– Contemporary artistic interventions in city lighting and how they can overturn the perception of the urban space.

– The possibility of European citizens to change the lighting environments of their cities.

The main objective of the “Urban Lightscapes Symposium” is the study of public lighting as a powerful configuration tool for public spaces, the emergence of new technologies and ideas on urban lighting and the creation of a European, multifaceted cooperation network of professionals and light artists.



10:30 Doors open

11:00 Welcome Address

Beforelight, Light Art Group, Urban Lightscapes’ Leading Partner

Valy Lioliou, Assistant Director at the Testing Research and Standards Center in Public Power Corporation S.A. Hellas

Polydefkis Loukopoulos, General Manager of Philips Lighting Greece & Cyprus

Greetings from Municipality of Athens’ Representative

11:30 Public Lighting in the Service of Citizens

Moderator: Giorgios Paissidis, Chairman at Hellenic Illumination Committee


Iakovos Potamianos, Professor AUTH, School of Fine Arts, Theatre Department, Head of Studies in Lighting Design and Multimedia MA – Hellenic Open University / Weaving Space:The sense of belonging and the aesthetics of light

Kostas Kapos, Mechanical / Energy Engineer, BS, MS / PE / The illumination of monuments and its impact on the urban landscape

Chrysostomos Christidis, Electrical Engineer and Board Member at Hellenic Illumination Committee, former director at TRS Centre of Public Power Corporation / The possibilities of extroverted creative lighting

Aimilia Karamouzi, Architect, Researcher at the Aristeia Research Programme, Ν.T.U.A. / D.L.D., Dynamic Lighting Design, Parametric interactive lighting software in urban public space

13:00 Break


14:00 The Use of Light in Art – Light Installations

Moderator: Poka-Yio, Multidisciplinary Artist, founder and co-director of Athens Biennale


Aleksandra Stratimirovic, Light Artist, Curator, Artistic Director of Belgrade Light Festival / Attention Light

Valentin Ruhry, Sculptor / Τhe Invisible Claim

Tamar Frank, Light Artist / Transforming Space with Light

Eleftheria Deko, Stage and Architectural Lighting Designer / Theatrical lighting: Influences and interactions to and from the Theater

15:30 Break


16:00 Keynote speaker:

Rogier van der Heide, Lighting Designer, Vice- President & Chief Design Officer at Philips, Artistic Director of Amsterdam Light Festival / From a Livable City to a Lovable City, or how light makes a place for inspiration and imagination


17:00 Involvement and Interactivity in Urban Lighting

Moderator: Vasileios Ntovros, Architect, Member of Beforelight group


Elettra Bordonaro – Architect, Urban Lighting Designer and Consultant, co-founder of Social Light Movement / Light and Cities – The Social Approach

Cristina Ampatzidou – Representative Beforelight, Light Art Group, Urban Lightscapes’ Leading Partner / Highlighting public spaces, intentions and interventions

Areti Markopoulou – Representative of IAAC, Institute of Advance Architecture of Catalonia, Urban Lightscapes’ Partner / Fabricating interactive prototypes for urban space

Benoit Vanraes – Representative of SoAP, Social Art Production Company, Urban Lightscapes’ Partner / Positive solutions through community art

18.00 Round table with speakers’ and audiences’ participation

19:00 Break


19:15 Documentary Film Screening – The City Dark (2011), directed by Ian Cheney

A search for night on a planet that never sleeps: THE CITY DARK is a feature documentary about light pollution and the disappearing night sky

* An open discussion with the audience follows the end of every session



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Urban lighting is often considered a mere technical process, cut off from the social and cultural environment which it serves. The nighttime landscapes of European cities rarely contribute to highlighting the particularity of these cities and improve the lifestyle of their residents.

The project “Urban Lightscapes” initiates a dialogue about the contribution of artistic lighting in bringing forward the special character of specific regions within the city and the function of lighting applications as tools for social participation that enhance the residents’ feeling of “belonging”.

The interaction between citizens and their lighting environment, the technology’s possibilities for adaptation to wider environmental conditions and the need to be energy efficient, are setting the basis for the study of light as a key element of urban regeneration. Moreover, the concept of ephemerality, which is closely intertwined with light as art, leads to interventions that creatively reinvent the relationship between the citizen and the city.

Issues such as sustainable lighting, visually interesting yet functional lighting, new technologies, energy conservation, participation, interaction, permanent or ephemeral lighting, constitute the basic terminology on which the content of the conference will be developed.



1. Lighting the city: Urban lighting in the service of the citizen

The rapid increase of people living in urban areas, which is expected to exceed the 75% of the world population by 2050, creates the huge challenge to establish suitable living conditions. Urban lighting is a determining factor, both to safety –helping to minimize accidents and combat crime- and to the city’s particular identity -contributing to its recognition by tourists and visitors. Moreover it contributes to the residents’ free and equal access to public space, supporting environmentally friendly mobility -walking, cycling- while creating the conditions for local economic development. It is also important to mention the sustainability of urban lighting by using new technologies and “smart” management systems for appropriate maintenance and quality control, aimed to optimize energy consumption, minimize environmental problems and reduce light pollution.

The complexity of the city requires a structural approach to sustainable urban lighting, which includes both different regions – from the center to the suburbs- and the elements that form the urban landscape such as roads, buildings, parks, historic areas, monuments, resulting in a single strategic plan for the study and application of public lighting at the service of the citizen.


2. The presence of artistic lighting in the city

Looking back at the cities’ history, ephemeral artificial lighting has often accompanied the openings and closures of festivals or special events: fireworks, Christmas lighting and parades were the “highlights” of life in European courts, especially when presented in public view. These events, which were usually expensive, complex and very short because of the technical means of that time, were, however, the starting point of contemporary cultural events. Under the same category we could add light installations made by visual artists and local action groups– observing a recent turn towards the urban environment instead of museums and conventional exhibition spaces- and also various light festivals globally established as contemporary city fairs. The evolution of technology, from fire and throttle to modern led lamps, provided artists with the opportunity to experiment with lighting. In addition, interventions in open public areas create a challenge of residents’ engagement, as the passive spectator’s role is gradually replaced by participation and interaction with the final visual result. It is interesting to explore, through the artists’ perspective, examples of the use of lighting instruments in public art installations and to show how the use of light can imaginatively and temporarily change the urban landscape. This use of lighting means in order to have a proper –frequently ephemeral- visual result, has a positive effect on the citizen: the reception of a public “gift” of nocturnal urban environment’s enrichment, intended for him.


3. Participation and interaction in Urban Lighting.

Following the two previous sections, the third thematic axis is based on the comparison of urban and artistic lighting focusing on their complementary relationship. Differences between urban and artistic lighting can be found in the range of implementation, the duration and the concept of use: The first one extends into every city’s corner, is permanent and follows rules of safety and accessibility, while the second one is usually applied locally, ephemerally and without serving a functional purpose but aesthetic criteria instead.

Questions referring to this confrontation concern ways to combine the functional dimension of urban lighting with the creation of landmarks or particular regions, how ephemeral artistic lighting interventions can blend in with the urban landscape and gain permanence, how lighting projects designed with visual criteria could become the main or accompanying illumination of a public space and how the synergy of urban and artistic lighting can produce Urban Lightscapes.