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Over 10 years after the City under Microscope in Moscow, Cities & Lighting takes a look at how the urban lighting of the Russian capital has evolved…

In 2007, almost 50 urban lighting professionals from 12 cities travelled to Moscow for the LUCI City under Microscope (CM). The event, one of the largest organised by LUCI at the time, took place from 5 – 7 September 2007 and presented the lighting strategy of the Russian capital.

With a population of over 12 million, Moscow is the largest city in Russia. In 2007, almost 700 buildings had been lit over the preceding 15 years.

Today, the city has 363 000 street lighting poles with 570 000 luminaires, complemented by 1453 objects of architectural and decorative lighting comprising 194 000 luminaires. It also owns 1180 km of LED garlands and 2 700 objects of festive lighting.

A long history in perspective

At its City under Microscope in 2007, Moscow was on the verge of validating an overall urban lighting plan called Conception of Integrated Visual Environment.

This comprehensive document was the fruit of several years of analysis and reflection. Anna Shakhparunyants, Director of the Russian Lighting Research Institute (VNISI), who played a key role in organising CM Moscow, explains the historical context of urban lighting in Moscow: “In the 1990s, the condition of outdoor lighting in Moscow was critical. Courtyards, streets, squares, avenues, parks, they were all rather dark and unsafe. The first attempt to change attitudes towards urban lighting was undertaken by the Moscow authorities in 1993.”

A general city lighting scheme and implementation plan was approved in 1994. Following this, the street lighting contractor Svetoservice (now BL GROUP), began an extensive audit of the city’s lighting systems. It also developed technical operation rules, launched a unified outdoor lighting system electronic database, and conducted a full-scale upgrade of worn and obsolete equipment.

In addition, VNISI created modern standards and parameter control methods that were harmonised with international standards. Moscow’s first automated lighting control system was also launched in the 1990s, enabling the city to respond to lighting malfunctions, implement energy-saving measures and create dynamic installations with a wide range of special effects for both functional street lighting as well as architectural lighting.

The municipality also took the first steps to create a city-wide, balanced lighting environment considering all kinds of lighting. “The Mayor of Moscow was personally committed to this lighting project” says G. Boos, President of BL GROUP. “This led to a grandiose spurt in development, primarily in recognition of the need for an integrated approach to Moscow’s lighting.”

An integrated approach creating Moscow’s nightscape

The CM Moscow event, consequently, provided the opportunity for the city to present its newly formulated Conception of Integrated Visual Environment. This established the general concept of a single light and colour environment for the entire city.

“The CM Moscow in 2007 was an opportunity to present our work on the overall Moscow lighting vision to our colleagues from around the world and to get their feedback,” says Pavel Livinskiy, Head of the Department of Fuel & Energy of the City of Moscow. “The City of Moscow government was very pleased with the result.”

Over the years following the CM Moscow, the Conception of Integrated Visual Environment has been implemented through several projects.

The year 2009 saw the installation of dynamic architectural lighting installations on symbolic structures such as Andrew’s Bridge and Patriarchal Bridge.

Following that, all 22 bridges in Moscow received new lighting schemes. Developed by SvetoProekt GK Svetoservis, the new lighting of the bridges has been a popular success. “The bridges, original elements of Moscow’s architecture, now reflected on the water surface, become a harmonious continuation of nature which is so lacking in the metropolis. The new look of the bridges has brought a new mood to the night life of the capital,” says Irina Tsvetkova, Lighting Design Specialist on the Committee for Architecture and Urban Planning of the City of Moscow.

Another major lighting project involved one of Moscow’s first and most spectacular use of large LED media screens on the facades of buildings in the Novy Arbat district of the city.

This initiative, which won the City.People.Light award special mention prize in 2012, was commended for its spectacular use of light to re-dynamise Novy Arbat and create a distinct brand and identity for the district.

In 2014, the City of Moscow implemented new architectural lighting for its iconic buildings, the “Seven Sisters”, a group of seven skyscrapers designed in the Stalinist style.

A multilevel lighting concept helps to emphasise the uniqueness of each building while simultaneously highlighting them as an ensemble in the city skyline. “The skyscrapers are revealed as in a classical painting. The symbiosis of tradition and modernity, while using modern techniques of lighting and lighting control, create a new silhouette for these historic buildings, giving them their rightful place in the new Moscow,” explains lighting designer Karsten Winkels, one of the designers of the project. This project, by SvetoProekt, won the Grand Prix in the Gold Victoria national design competition in 2015.

Moscow has also developed a complex automated control system for its architectural lighting. Implemented in 2013, the system, which is developed, installed and operated by Svetoservice, enables the city to switch installations on and off, as well as to remotely install new lighting scenarios.

LED street lighting replacements

The functional street lighting in Moscow, like in many cities, has also greatly evolved over the past ten years, with a strong focus on LEDs.

In 2004, LED lamps were used for the first time in Moscow in the Raushskaya Embankment.

In 2008 the Berezovaya Roshzha Street test area was implemented, which experimented with LED lamps from different manufacturers. By 2011, following part of a large-scale overhaul, there were more than 10 000 LED lamps in Moscow.

“The most important aspects of quality outdoor lighting, not only in Moscow, but also in Russia, are based on reasonable regulation and comprehensive control of lighting installation parameters. VNISI’s research in recent years aiming to update the normative and technical base of functional outdoor lighting has enabled us to help the City of Moscow achieve an effective objective,” says Anatoli Chernyak, Head of Laboratory at VNISI.

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Images copyright VNISI

An edited version of this article originally appeared in  Cities & Lighting magazine (Issue #5 , May 2017).

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