Lighting the ultimate tourism experience: a case study in Singapore
Potvin, D. Andrew
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Economic growth of the tourism industry has led to continual urban redevelopment worldwide and the need to create new experiences that are unique, welcoming and memorable. Urban lighting on its own, as a way to revitalize urban areas, is a relatively fresh concept and is becoming an integral part of the urban tourism development process worldwide. Urban lighting projects and lightscapes such as light based events lure people to a particular place from various geographical locations to engage in the activity or attraction. These lightscapes are emerging temporary installations (e.g., festive/event lighting) and fixed installations (e.g., architecture/skyline lighting). As a case example, urban lighting in Singapore has been a major area of focus for the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). The URA oversees and develops both codes of practice and lighting master plans with the aim of providing a destination to ‘explore, exchange and entertain’ for tourists. A quality lighting environment was defined by Veitch (2001) as ‘a lit space that supports human behavioral needs, with considerations for architectural and economical aspects of the installation.’ Although there are many urban design codes and practices to develop a quality lighting environment, very little research has addressed the impact of urban lighting on the individual human psychology and visual perception phenomenon. Previous studies on the perception of environmental and visual urban landscapes suggest that a ‘legible’ environment was necessary to develop a positive living environment (Kaplan, 1983; Lynch, 1960, Nasar, 1998, Rapoport, 1977). These studies focused on the design codes and parameters that were preferred from the human perspective resulting in the definition of lighting quality we know today. The research for this thesis will seek to understand the importance of lighting quality and the lightscape perception of tourists as they experience a tourism destination - Singapore. Qualitative interviews with urban designers and management have been conducted in conjunction with short interviews with tourists to establish whether the goals of Singapore becoming a destination to ‘explore, exchange and entertain’ have been achieved. The research results illuminate individual psychological processes that impact tourists’ personal perspectives of urban lighting and the lit environment. The results suggest that individuals often do not care about urban lighting until it is absent or is inefficient in providing a coherent and legible experience. However, those who do address urban lighting consciously express an awareness of the potential harm that it could have to the environment. These results invite further discussion and serve as a reference for potential future research. The results of this research can be part of the evolving study of urban lighting design and can help future lightscape designers to be effective in providing a quality lighting experience that is efficient in executing its purpose, whether for practical, aesthetic or entertainment purposes, in order to provide the ‘ultimate’ environment for tourists.