City under Microscope Oulu


LUCI’s northern-most city, Oulu, in Finland, welcomed over 120 city representatives and lighting professionals from 22 cities for the City under Microscope in Oulu on 20 – 23 November 2019.

Opened by the Mayor of Oulu Päivi Laajala, the City under Microscope (CM) Oulu featured a varied and multi-faceted programme with a range of venues, ambiences and speakers, perfectly reflecting this city of contrasts – a city that successfully balances diverse priorities linked to culture, education, youth, nature and a high-tech economy.

Oulu – light of the north

At a latitude of 65°N, 200 km from the arctic circle, Oulu experiences long periods of light and darkness. The strong contrasts linked to light that varies with the seasons means that public lighting plays a major role in the everyday life of the city.

This special relationship with light was the focus of two conference sessions with experts from the City of Oulu and lighting designers from Scandinavia.

A unique relationship with light

Speakers Matti Matinheikki, the Director of Urban and Environment Services, Tapio Siikaluoma, the Chief of Street Planning, Urban and Environmental Services, and Veera Sanaksenaho, Landscape Architect, Urban and Environmental Services in Oulu explained Oulu’s urban development strategy and it’s public lighting over the years.

Lighting in Oulu has come a long way from the first electric public lanterns in 1889 and the first lighting master plan in 1987, to almost 60% outdoor lighting with LED in 2020.

The city, whose lighting strategy aims to use light to activate its public spaces during all four seasons, has invested in several dynamic lighting projects for its parks and squares.

Activate public spaces in all four seasons

One such project is the Mannerheim Park lighting project which has new dynamic lighting programmes that varies according to seasons.

The objective was to create a flexible lighting system that can be adapted for community events all through the year, explained lighting designer, Reija Pasanen of Ramboll Finland.

An insight on the into the designer’s dilemma was given by lighting designer Roope Siiroinen of VALOA Design as he shared the lighting design process of the Oulu River Delta.


Should designers follow trends or tradition?


Should designers follow trends, or tradition? Do we want less, or more? Do we follow technology, or humans? Dynamic or harmonic? What is too much, what is too little, what is enough?

The Oulu River Delta design project answers some of these questions with its award-winning lighting for Pikisaari Bridge, using different shades of white to helping the bridge fit harmoniously into the Scandinavian landscape in a perfect example of “less is more”.

Future Luminous Oulu

The event also featured a panel discussion on the role of light in the Oulu of the future.

Panelists Piia Rantala-Korhonen, Director of Oulu2026, Dr. Henrika Pihlajaniemi, Post-Doctoral Researcher, University of Oulu, Juha Ala-Mursula, Executive Director, BusinessOulu and Jussi Tomberg, Senior Advisor, Education and Cultural Services at the City of Oulu discussed the value of light in the city.

Balance public activation and respect of nature

Some of the different aspects addressed included the importance of well-designed lighting that balances public activation with respect of nature, increased participatory initiatives though light, cultural story-telling via light, and creating a living city during all four seasons of the year.

High-tech Oulu

An afternoon at the University of Oulu was the ideal forum for a series of presentations on the lighting-related research being conducted in the city, the home of many technological innovations that have revolutionised our lives, such as Nokia cell phones and printed, flexible electronics.

Speakers included Dr. Henrika Pihlajaniemi, Post-Doctoral Researcher at the University of Oulu, Ekaterina Gilman, Post-Doctoral Researcher in Computer Science and Engineering at University of Oulu, and Martin Kögler from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

Home of revolutionary technological innovations

Some of the examples presented included the Sencity project which is building a smart LED lighting and digital service platform for six cities in Finland, a project on dynamic lighting for cars combined with a user perception analysis, and smart luminaires using flexible electronics.

Other topics of discussion included the challenges and opportunities linked to big data and analysis of this data in the smart city context. Communicating with and educating citizens about the opportunities, dangers and consequences of these technologies is key.

Oulu 2026 – blending light and culture

The City of Oulu, which is bidding for the European Capital of Culture 2026, is using light art as a key element of its bid, explained Piia Rantala-Korhonen, Director of International Affairs and Oulu2026.

Oulu 2026 is about transformation and making the city better in a new, collaborative way.


Cultural climate change


Through its ECOC 2026 bid theme “Cultural Climate Change” the City of Oulu aims to explore how culture and art can shift the conversation on climate change to reach people in a different way: to use art and emotion to touch people’s hearts, complementing the science that has already reached people’s minds.

The cultural creativity of the city was also highlighted in a presentation on the Lumo Light Festival. Festival Programme Manager Jarkko Halunen and Producer Anna Lanas explained some of the key principles – diversity in the artistic programming and a strong community-focus – behind this event which is now in its seventh edition.

CM Oulu participants had the chance to experience the opening night of the festival, with a guided stroll through the LUMO Oulu installations.

An open studio session with artists of the Oulu Dance Hack 2019 gave participants the opportunity to try out the installation’s interactive lighting systems. The Dance Hack, part of the LUMO Oulu festival, gathered artists from around the world to experiment with lighting technology in a dance context, through a series of installations and short performances.

This, coupled with a light walk in the city centre and the inauguration of the « Näetkö Metsää Puulta? / Woods » light installation, gave CM Oulu participants a first-hand experience of light in its many forms in Oulu.

Watch or re-watch the conference

LUCI members can access the presentations made during the conferences in the

 LUCI Hub.

 Event pictures

We are happy to share some photos from the conference. You can access them here.

Please be sure to use the noted ©photo credits if sharing these via social media or your communication channels.

© City of Oulu, photos by Juuso Haarala