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Lyon, France, City of Light: 1989-1999

Looks back on how the City's lighting strategy has developed. First part of the 2005 article about Lyon in the British magazine Mondo*arc.
par Vincent Laganier21 novembre 2013

Located at the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône, Lyon known as ‘la brumeuse’ for ifs foggy climate – introduced a lighting plan in 1989. Far Henry Chabert, the then deputy mayor in charge of town planning and public spaces, “the lighting plan forms port of a general strategy to enhance the urban environment and improve life in the city. For the city’s inhabitants, if reinforces their sense of belonging”.

Place des Terreaux - Conception lumière : Laurent Fachard, LEA - Photo : Vincent Laganier

Place des Terreaux – Lighting design: Laurent Fachard, LEA – Photo: Vincent Laganier

The lighting plan shows off the city, ifs heritage, ifs topography and ifs history thoroughfares ta their best advantage. Building façades on the main avenues of the city center are edge-lit from the first story upwards. This ‘Lyonnais’ approach is thanks to Alain Guilhot and Michel Bouit, who were also involved in the lighting plan from the very start. This indirect form of lighting produces a diffuse, luminescent ambience which gives pedestrians a feeling of security.

Rue du Président-Edouard Herriot, Lyon, France - Photo : Vincent Laganier

Rue du Président Edouard Herriot, Lyon, France – Photo: Vincent Laganier

Bridges, walkways and important sites are illuminated by a combination of beams shining in different directions. The city has utilised the expertise of many lighting designers, most of them based in the Rhône-Alpes region. The illuminations were inaugurated on the occasion of the traditional ‘Fête de la Lumière’, or Festival of Lights, which takes place on the 8th of December each year.

Pont et Université de Lyon, France - Conception lumière : Louis Clair et Roland Jéol - Photo : Vincent Laganier

Bridge and Lyon University, France – Lighting design: Louis Clair et Roland Jéol – Photo: Vincent Laganier

Pont de la Mulatière - Conception lumière : Alain Gulihot - Photo : Vincent Laganier

Pont de la Mulatière – Lighting design: Alain Guilhot – Photo: Vincent Laganier

Public lighting has not been forgotten. Jean-Michel Wilmotte and Louis Clair have designed three simple, contemporary styles of lamp post. This furniture is used both in the city centre and on the outskirts, for the sake of coherence. Another original and imaginative range by Jourda / Perraudin is installed in particular locations, such as the square of Lyon’s ‘Cité Internationale’.

Mobilier lumière, Ville de Lyon - Architectes : Jourda et Peraudin, devant la-Halle Tony Garnier -Photo : Ville de Lyon

Tony Garnier Hall, Lyon, France – Urban furnitures ‘Ville de Lyon’ – Architects: Jourda & Peraudin – Photo: Ville de Lyon

Cité internationale, Quai Charles de Gaulle, Lyon, France - Mobilier lumière, Ville de Lyon : Jean-Michel Wilmotte - Conception lumière : Roland Jéol - Photo : Vincent Laganier

‘Cité internationale’, Charles de Gaulle Quay, Lyon, France – Urban furnitures ‘Ville de Lyon’ – Architects: Jean-Michel Wilmotte – Lighting design: Roland Jéol – Photo: Vincent Laganier

Exporting its lighting expertise

Lyon has exported its expertise by lighting in:

  • 1995, the Hermitage Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • 1997, the Castillo del Morro in Havana, Cuba.
  • 1998, the Ho Chi Minh City Museum in Vietnam.

These three projects were the work of Lyonnais lighting designers and the shareholders of the Lighting Plan, Électricité de France (EDF) and Le Mat’ Électrique (part of the Sonepar group).

Bibliotheque de la cité, Conception lumière : Philippe Hutinet - Photo : Vincent Laganier

Bibliotheque de la cité, Lyon, France – Lighting design: Philippe Hutinet – Photo: Vincent Laganier

Basilique de Fourvière, Lyon, France - Conception lumiere : Laurence Bouillon - Photo : Vincent Laganier

Fourvière Basilica, Lyon, France – Lighting design: Laurence Bouillon – Photo: Vincent Laganier

At the time, over 150 noteworthy sites in Lyon are lit under the management of Antoine Bouchet. Year after year, Lyon has succeeded in changing its image and developing ifs nightlife. Light has become a real element in its tourism activities. 7.62 million euros were invested between 1989 and 1998, equivalent to 2.06 euros per inhabitant per year. The operating budget amounts ta 0.61 million euros, of which electricity consumption accounts for half.

Simulation des environnements lumineux de la Part-Dieu, vue depuis la basilique de Fourvière, extrait du plan lumière, Les Eclairagistes Associés - Illustration : LEA

A simulation of the lighting plan for the Part-Dieu area, view from Fourvière Basilica, extract from the lighting master plan, Les Eclairagistes Associés – Illustration: LEA

When, in 1999, the city established a four-day Festival of Light, two area lighting plans were initiated:

  • in Part-Dieu in the city centre by Laurent Fachard, Les Eclairagistes Associés
  • La Duchère, located an Lyon’s ‘third hill’ by Philippe Hutinet.
Simulation des environnements lumineux de la Part-Dieu, vue rapprochée, extrait du plan lumière, Les Eclairagistes Associés - Illustration : LEA

A simulation of the lighting plan for the Part-Dieu area, closed view, extract from the lighting master plan, Les Eclairagistes Associés – Illustration: LEA

In Part Dieu, the dramatic night-time display reveals the city’s architecture through colour, and uses blue to Iight the roadways.

Simulation des environnements lumineux de la Part-Dieu, Avenue Garibaldi, extrait du plan lumière, Les Eclairagistes Associés - Illustration : LEA

A simulation of the lighting plan for the Part-Dieu area, Garibaldi Avenue, extract from the lighting master plan, Les Eclairagistes Associés – Illustration: LEA

Extract from Vincent Laganier article’s

« Lyon, ville lumière », pages 28 to 34 Mondo*arc, n°23, February 2005,

Mondiale Publishing Ltd, Stockport, Great Britain

Lyon-ville-lumière-MondoArc23-2005-1

Download the complete article in PDF

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Vincent Laganier
Vincent Laganier
Architecte diplômé de l'Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture de Nantes. Rédacteur en chef du portail Light ZOOM Lumière depuis 2012. Auteur de six ouvrages de référence sur la lumière, la ville et le bâtiment. Enseignant en éclairage à l’ENSA Nantes et à l'ENSATT Lyon.
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