By: Steve Woolrich, Principal of Rethink Urban Inc.
The light we saw at the end of the tunnel was the front of an oncoming train, in this case
a worldwide pandemic we now refer to as Covid-19. Although this train has brought the
world to a screeching halt, we need to focus on what’s ahead. As a Community Safety
and Well-Being practitioner, and an expert in Crime Prevention through Environmental
Design (CPTED) for over two decades I’ve seen how this crisis has already impacted our
built environment. For the most part, it has crippled our public realm and our longing for
connection by advising us to stay home, and keep a safe distance from others. My work
continues to focus on the importance of people – place – connection, and as we navigate
our way through this pandemic new opportunities will emerge.
Learning more about CPTED and how we go about lighting our environments is well
worth exploring. To provide context the International CPTED Association defines it as a
multidisciplinary approach for reducing crime through urban and environmental design
and the management and use of built environments. During the past few years our team
developed a full SPECTRUM approach to co-creating safe communities and improving
well-being. As a result, we have stepped up our interest in lighting the places we live,
work and play. Lighting has the potential to transform a space, and how creative we are
in applying lighting solutions can lead to spectacular outcomes.
As one of my first CPTED instructors Timothy Crowe points out in his book titled Crime
Prevention through Environmental Design “Lighting has two purposes within the CPTED
conceptual model: one is for the illumination of human activities and the other is for
security.” As a practitioner I find this extremely limiting in its scope and believe we need
to carefully examine how more creative forms of lighting can do a lot more to enhance
our built environments, and improve well-being. In other words, there is a lot more to
lighting that turning on a switch, setting a timer or installing a motion sensor to activate a
light. Why not explore the growing alternatives to lighting and carefully plan for your
Interactive lighting is exciting; it brings out the kid in me. As adults many of us have
forgotten how to play, and it shows in many of our urban places and spaces. Just think or
rethink the potential that lighting has to engage us, make us feel part of some place
special. It can stop us in our tracks, the sights, colors, and intricate designs now being
used to truly engage us – light us up! Is this art? Yes, and much more.
Objects we often consider ordinary or not particularly interesting can be morphed into a
delight for our senses, especially at night. In fact, urban areas can often be perceived as
dangerous with people becoming fearful and avoiding them all together. Activity support
is considered an important aspect of CPTED, a secret recipe for success in much of my
work. Creative lighting generates interest and attracts more people, increasing levels of
activity and improving our sense of safety.
There will always be those that deny that lighting such as this can improve safety and
well-being but I’ve seen no proof of this in any of my projects over several decades. In
fact, I’ve seen back alleys, streets and parks be transformed. People become intrigued,
and will go out of their way to see and experience these artistic spectacles which help
activate our imagination. So, do we want more light at the end of the tunnel? Yes, let’s
face it we all want to see the light.