Perpetual Light

This photography series by Emily Holworthy explores the strange and curious relationship in the urban reality of perpetual light; the interplay of daylight and electric lighting in the built environment.

Our relationship to light has significantly changed. We may not have noticed, as the change has been gradual. However, in recent years this shift has gathered pace. I don’t think the idea of day and night has quite the same significance as it once did. Nowadays we have a continuous relationship to light – such that we are never far from a light source. This may not sound so remarkable as we are used to technology and lighting being part of our lives. However, it is significant if we consider just haw far we have shifted from say a hundred years ago – or even ten years ago.

The day night cycle that has been in place for centuries had a huge effect on the way we live, act and evolve. However now with more and more light and technology as part of our lives, we are continuously connected to sources of light, which means that we do not experience darkness as we once did. Our urban environment is no longer day and night, light and dark – but rather a lighting situation that combines daylight and electric lighting.

If we consider architecture before the invention of industrial lighting it was essentially the art of daylight. Architecture, through its many iterations, moderated and mediated the effects of daylight; its many configurations and reconfigurations used daylight to create surreal and transcendental experiences of place. Within this context the simple cycle of day and night fitted neatly into our less technologically driven world.

Electric lighting has changed this relationship with architecture and daylight. As it has become smaller, brighter, more efficient and less costly we are using it not only to extend the period of daylight into the night, but it is also becoming more prevalent during the day. This is much more evident in urban environments where our cities have become denser and taller, with deep shadows cast at ground level, and we rely on electric lighting to supplement the available light.

Although the architectural media is filled with imagery of buildings bathed in natural light, in reality the majority of days are not always this picture perfect. There is a continuous change of light throughout the day that is often not always portrayed or considered when designing. As architects and designers we often think of lighting design and architecture as two separate entities, as though there is no transition between day and night and we simply flick a switch when the sun goes down.

What I think is evident is that there is a new urban condition that sees electric light and daylight co-exist. There is a range of different lighting conditions that neither architects nor lighting designers have the means to describe, design or control. In this co-existence there is beauty, ugliness, ambiguity and poetry when there is a synergy of light.

Photograph by Emily Holworthy

Photograph by Emily Holworthy

Photograph by Emily Holworthy