Reinvigorating Derelict Spaces Through The Use Of Light [Future of Light]

Reinvigorating Derelict Spaces Through The Use Of Light [Future of Light]

In an urban setting, the simple presence of light can make any space feel more enticing.

  • 22 september 2013

Historically, light has served as a beacon, symbolizing hope and homecoming, guiding us and communicating the information we need for safe passage and community. In an urban setting, its simple presence or absence can immediately draw or detract from how enticing a space becomes. By adding simple variations in color, hue, or intensity, light can serve as a magnet for attracting people into a designated space while its absence might serve as a cautionary warning in itself. At the same time, it can become much more, taking the next step of communicating specific information about a place and laying in relevant information to people nearby.


In a trend we’re calling Welcoming Light, PSFK Labs explores how derelict and forgotten urban spaces are being reinvigorated through the deployment of creative lighting displays that promote safety and community. By harnessing the potential of light to create alluring environments, these installations challenge long-held assumptions around spaces fallen into disuse, carving out new possibilities around congregation, play, and safe passage.


Former industrial spaces in Britain can be viewed as an eyesore, but the Toffee Factory in Newcastle is challenging perceptions thanks to a simple lighting solution. The former Maynards toffee factory turned its chimney into a giant ‘glow stick’ to raise awareness of ‘The Late Shows’, a series of late-night cultural events in the cities of Newcastle and Gateshead. The lighting was designed by Stainton Lighting Design Services, utilizing Philips LED products to create the color changing effects for the chimney and four arches on the site.

We asked Barry Richards, principal of Rockwell Group, about the appeal of light in making urban, derelict spaces more enjoyable:

Light’s a joy. People respond to light. I think that kind of joyful spirit does connect to a lot of people. It makes places lively and engaging.

skate park-koo jeong-a-glow in the dark

The sheer attraction and joy that light brings is in evidence once again at a glow-in-the-dark skatepark in the Limousin area of central France, which enables visitors to skate 24 hours a day. Created by Korean artist Koo Jeong-aOtro park utilizes phosphorescent concrete that is charged by exposure to the sun. The park features more than 2,000 square feet of surface area spread over several bowls and three tunnels, creatively re-imagining the way are public spaces are lit. The project was created over the course of four years through a collaboration between Koo Jeong-a, L’Escaut Architectures and Belgian skate collectives Brusk (now dissipated) and Barricade.

koo jeong-a - otro

Urban regeneration projects like Otro and the Toffee Factory fall under the larger theme we’re calling Luminous Relationships, which explores how lighting designs can trigger positive emotional responses, changing a person’s relationship with their friends and family, their surroundings and even the products that occupy their lives.

The Future of Light series explores light’s potential to improve lives, build communities, and connect people in new and meaningful ways. Brought to you in partnership with Philips Lighting, a full report is available as an iOS and Android app or as a downloadable PDF.

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