Light, whether natural or artificial is the most essential requirement to see anything for most of the living creatures and especially for humans. But human nature is such that, it wants more than the basic needs in almost all sensory things. Say for example every living body (humans, birds, animals, insects or even vegetations) need some sort of food for growth and survival. But human wants the food to be appetizing, fresh, hygienic, tasty, aromatic and aesthetic also. So, he adds spices, colours, shapes etc. to the food. Like wise to the song or poetry he adds rhythm, scale, music and special sound effects. This applies to almost all aspects of human behaviour like apparels, looks, vehicles, houses and buildings etc. The list is endless.
Although the term Heritage has been used as heading or title of this article, it does not restrict it to only old and historical structures or monuments, as some new monuments like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s ‘The Statue of Unity‘ the tallest statue in the word, is also a part of this heritage. Many of the governments, authorities, communities and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) are trying to preserve the culture and customs of their country and community as the case may be being the part of history and heritage. The main monuments, which are considered as Heritage are Cities, Villages, Temples, Forts, Museums, Lakes and ponds, Gardens, Palaces, Costumes, Paintings, and Monasteries including Ashrams. The Light and Sound Shows organized by authorities in Historical places like Lal Killa (Red Fort), Sabarmati Ashram and now at The Statue of Unity are some of the examples of Heritage Lighting. In addition to preservation of culture and history, such monuments have huge potential of attracting tourists and earning revenues, which is essential for their maintenance and survival. It is not necessary that only artificial lights are used to enhance the innate beauty of places and monuments as in India there are a few places in hilly area that are famous as Sun Set Points – where people enjoy the cool ambiance of dusk.
Lighting design is one of the critical factors for the safety and security of spaces and property, and cultural heritage is no exception. Indeed, the importance of light is even more significant in this case, as it helps to enhance the perception of shapes of three-dimensional works and can also have a decisive impact on two-dimensional ones. In every part of the world, light exerts its strong influence on the perception of spaces, and it is a phenomenon so common that it is often almost taken for granted.
Cultural heritage is undoubtedly one of the main sectors in which the light culture requires more significant commitment, care and concern. Light is an essential component for the enjoyment of works of art: without it, we could neither see nor appreciate them, and our life would be decidedly impoverished. On the other hand, however, light with its radiations, whether of natural or artificial origin, could be also one of the leading causes of the degradation process to which all cultural heritage is, to varying degrees, inexorably subjected. Therefore, the utmost care must be exercised to allow the full enjoyment of the work, ensuring the best protection from damage of any origin. At the same time, however, we must consider cultural heritage as places we do not live in but where we can observe, contemplate, and undergo very particular experiences. It is with this premise that we must approach the lighting project.
Cultural heritage lighting is a subject where a disciplinary and discriminatory approach to harmonize the various contradictory aspects between architecture, archaeology, history, graphics, geography, economics, and technology is necessary. This is not so much for their knowledge but mainly for their conservation, enhancement, and use. All these considerations are fundamental when starting to design a lighting system for these environments.
Artificial light is an essential element that allows one to integrate and qualify the perception offered by natural light, both when the latter is non-existent or too scarce or does not allow good modelling (perception of the three-dimensional shapes) or enhancement of the object. Therefore, the lighting project for cultural heritage should consider fundamental aspects of history, culture, demography and sociology. It should also be based on all the technical aspects related to it. It is seamless blending of modernity like artificial lighting, techniques and technology with tradition. It’s where modernity and tradition coexist harmoniously. It’s a tailor-made project and varies from one to another to match the demands of the monuments or heritage under consideration.
Starting with flood lights to latest laser-based lightings and light showers the Heritage lighting has become a specialized subject. Lasers emit light that is highly directional and is emitted as a relatively narrow beam in a specific direction. Ordinary light, such as coming from the sun, a light bulb, or a candle, is emitted in many directions away from the source. It has become a widely used light source for light and sound show, which is a night time spectacle or performance, at which a building, historic site, etc., is illuminated and the historic significance is imparted to spectators by means of films, lighting, narration, sound effects and music.
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Pravin Shah is a first class graduate Electrical Engineer with over 35 years of experience in project engineering and maintenance in diverse industries. He is a regular writer of technical articles and has received many appreciation letters for his informative articles.