Jyväskylä balancing between lux and luxury – The story of the City of Light in Finland

Jyväskylä located in Central Finland is a lively city with a growing population. Finland’s seventh largest city is home to almost 136,000 people. Jyväskylä, well known for its green surroundings and Alvar Aalto architecture, is also Finland’s City of Light.

Kuokkala bridge. Credits: Jani Salonen

Kuokkala bridge. Credits: Jani Salonen

The impetus for the City of Light project was provided by the Lighting Master Plan which was completed in 2000 and continues to influence the way lighting in the city is implemented. The city’s goal is to create an outdoor lighting system that is as energy-efficient as possible which simultaneously produces an urban environment that is appealing, easy on the eye and has a safe feel during the hours of darkness. Jyväskylä is also one of the few cities in Finland where a work team has been hired to develop lighting and organise events. In Jyväskylä the message has hit home that lighting is an opportunity, not a problem.

Lighting enjoys particular importance in Finland, where the amount of darkness per year is slightly less than in Central Europe, but where the available light is distributed unevenly across the annual cycle. The virtually nightless nights of summer are counterbalanced by the long, dark days of autumn and winter, when the period of daylight may be just a few hours. Lighting thus plays a major role in Finnish everyday life. Children have to be able to reach the playground on a February afternoon even though it may be dark outside, and there has to be obstacle-free access to bus stops also in hours of darkness.

MÑkimatti park. Credits: Juhana Konttinen

MÑkimatti park. Credits: Juhana Konttinen

Jyväskylä draws its enthusiasm and information on urban lighting primarily via the LUCI network. LUCI (Lighting Urban Community International) is the association of cities of light around the world and Jyväskylä as a member has a seat on the executive committee both this and next year. As a voting member of the committee Jyväskylä has the opportunity to feature prominently and guide the association and its activities.

In Jyväskylä there are currently approximately 90 illuminated locations which represent good examples of architectural lighting. The City of Light project markets and presents these locations to all those with an interest, even though only around half the locations are city implemented and maintained. The locations include, for instance, bridges, parks, building facades, street spaces and light artwork. The goal of lighting in Jyväskylä is to create hierarchy and recognizability in the urban environment and build an image. Representatives of numerous cities visit Jyväskylä each year in order to experience the illuminated locations and the annual autumn light event first hand. According to a survey of Jyväskylä residents – conducted in February 2009 – over half the respondents had stopped specifically to admire the permanent light installations and in the opinion of 84% the illuminated locations implemented in recent years had boosted the city’s appeal. This everyday luxury – the attractiveness of one’s surroundings – clearly inspires people and increases pride in the place where they live.

Compass light art. Credits: Juhana Konttinen

Compass light art. Credits: Juhana Konttinen

As a counterbalance to luxury, Jyväskylä also puts a major effort into the energy efficiency of its lighting system – in other words delivering the right amount of lux in the right places. The Pro-Environment Outdoor Lighting project was originally started back in 1999 and the current phase, the fourth in order, will be finished at the end of 2016. As the name suggests the purpose of the project is to make the lighting system environmentally friendly, which in practice means using energy efficient lamps, recycling equipment no longer in use, providing the correct amount of light, and exploiting the benefits of control systems. At the present time the project has produced a 25% saving in energy from the starting level and over half the city’s 30,000 lighting points have been exchanged for new ones. In this respect Jyväskylä is more advanced than many Finnish municipalities. As a consequence of the economic recession extra savings have been pursued by means of night-time lighting shutdowns. Since February 2014 some lighting in residential and industrial areas has been extinguished at night. According to estimates these shutdowns boost savings in energy consumption to 47 per cent. Relatively few complaints have been received and thus shutdowns are likely to be continued.

Innovative use of light in the urban space demands good planning and bold decision-making. Using light it is possible to emphasise things that do not stand out during the daytime, or to create a special feeling and atmosphere. Where using light is concerned one of the key points of departure is to only put light in places where it is needed. Light can also be used to highlight important features in the scenery and to guide the course taken by people or vehicles. Used appropriately light can also create new significance for a space or site. In any case the aim must be glare-free lighting solutions and the avoidance of light pollution at all costs. Yard lighting, floodlighting in parking areas as well as advertisement lights are not easy to manage from a city perspective, since their ownership is in private hands. In order to exert an influence on this the City of Jyväskylä offers information and advice on planning the illumination of outdoor areas, which aims at a dark-time urban environment with little or no obtrusive light. Partnership is the only way of achieving a good end result.

The International Year of Light 2015 will focus attention on the various sectors of light and lighting and at the same time help to make the importance of urban lighting more familiar to people. Light affects people at the subconscious level and pleasant lighting of the surroundings is nowadays one of the key emphases in urban development. City of Light Jyväskylä is a proud sponsor of International Year of Light!



AnnukkaLarsenLighting designer Annukka Larsen has been coordinating the City of Light project in Jyväskylä, Finland since 2007. Annukka was already involved in creating the Jyväskylä Lighting Master Plan in 1999-2000. Along the years she has worked on a number of lighting projects as a designer and coordinator. She also contributes to the development of attractive city nightscape by guiding the lighting projects in the city. Since 2009 Annukka has been part of the team handling the Pro-Environment Urban Lighting project.

One thought on “Jyväskylä balancing between lux and luxury – The story of the City of Light in Finland

  1. Reblogged this on Patricia Daukantas, Science Writer/Editor and commented:
    Here’s a nice post from the International Year of Light’s official blog. Jyväskylä (please don’t ask me how to pronounce that!) is about 300 km north of Helsinki, as far as I can tell from online maps — not far enough north to be truly Arctic, but still up there in the “long winter nights” department. I like this city’s approach to good urban lighting design, with due consideration to mitigating light pollution.

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