Vertical light infrastructures: domestic lighting, the residential high-rise and the formation of nocturnal publics

Authors: Casper Laing Ebbensgaard*, Queen Mary
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural Geography, Social Geography
Keywords: night, lighting, domesticity, public space, high-rise, infrastructure
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Blue Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The advance of artificial lighting infrastructures have historically enabled urban life forms to expand into the ‘frontier’ of the night (Melbin, 1987), shaping the conditions under which human and more-than-human life takes place after hours of darkness (Edensor, 2017; Gandy, 2017). This paper questions how lighting design and urban planning conditions everyday urban life at night by referring to the design and construction of residential towers in east London and the role of non-planned and contingent light sources, counting domestic lighting, in shaping nocturnal urban publics. Across the city 510 towers in excess of 20 storeys are either being built or in the pipeline with 26% located in the East End and 19% in Tower Hamlets alone. The paper critically examines the verticalisation of east London’s housing infrastructure at night by scrutinizing the role that lighting regulations and standards play throughout the planning and design process and, crucially, detailing how they relate to the everyday life of living in and next to high-rise buildings. Situated within recent debates that rethink the relation between the urban and the domestic (Blunt & Sheringham, 2018; Koch & Latham, 2013), and through the prism of domestic lighting and darkness rethink the limits of the urban public (Bille, 2019; Shaw, 2018) the paper foregrounds the importance of vertical light infrastructures to the formation of more inclusive nocturnal publics, and so develops a multimodal approach for conceptualising nocturnal public space which accounts for the diverse practices invested in giving the city a luminous presence at night.

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