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April 20, 2000

Lighting brings focus to elements of integrated design

Gateways, streetscapes and community identites are strengthened with key lighting elements

By JULIET VONG
Hough Beck & Baird

Special light fixtures were used on Mercer Island to delineate a gateway into the downtown core
As many of our communities and neighborhoods today are struggling to distinguish themselves from their neighbors, they are creating their own identity, vision and character. As landscape architects, we are learning that lighting design can be an important element of that vision and a key tool in an integrated design process. Lighting is used by landscape architects to help create "gateways," to define a pedestrian scale environment in urban centers, or to bring an historical, nautical or industrial element into a design that reflects the history of a particular place.

Lighting can be used by itself or in conjunction with other streetscape elements to create a strong symbol of the residents and businesses within a community. Special light fixtures were used in conjunction with public art in Mercer Island to subtly delineate a gateway into the downtown core. The light fixtures highlight intersections and reinforce the strong pedestrian focus throughout the downtown. Metal ribbons attached to the light poles depict the historic maple trees of the island. In Redmond, lighting was used to enhance the landscape and existing bridge as a "gateway" to the historic downtown. Special fixtures were designed and attached to the existing bridge over the Sammamish River to form an elegant, sweeping arch leading into the Citys historic downtown area. A strong evergreen backdrop complements the lighting element throughout the day, as well.

Mercer Island light pole
Mercer Island light pole
Courtesy of Hough Beck & Baird
Hough Beck & Baird worked as part of a design team which included Mark Hinshaw (urban designer) and T. Ellen Sollod (artist) in Mercer Island and Redmond. The design included paving and landscape features.

At the Park at Bothell Landing, lighting was used to reflect the historic character of the site and make a visual connection to the adjacent historic Main Street through downtown. Hough Beck & Baird selected the light fixture to match an existing historic photograph of downtown Bothell.

As we look to lighting for aesthetic as well as functional elements in the environment, we have seen a shift in lighting design itself. Clients, manufacturers and suppliers are looking more to European design and technologies as an alternative to the more traditional light fixtures found on many projects today. Many European designs blend form with function, historic with modern, and elegant with practical solutions. As we use lighting to define the character of our communities, we integrate it with landscape architecture and urban design to create a successful overall project and community design.


Juliet Vong is an associate at Hough Beck & Baird.

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