LightWalk in Berlin

LightWalk in Berlin

If you think of Berlin, you also think of night life. However, night life is not only fun, for many people it is hard work. To talk about all the work that goes into a successful nightlife, a conference has been held last week in Berlin. “Stadt nach Acht”, “City after Eight” had many topics and one was light.

Participants of the LightWalk evaluate their impression of a street crossing

You can talk about light for hours, but the best way to experience it, is to actually see it. Therefore, Josiane Meier and Dietrich Henckel from the Institute of Urban and Regional Planning, invited to a LightWalk. This event was also part of the Berliner Nachtungen, a series of events related to the night, organised by scientists from the project Loss of the Night.

The tour started in Kreuzberg and crossed the river Spree to Warschauer Straße, both areas known for their night life. The participants had the task to write down their impressions and feelings of the lighting at several stops. At the end it was shown, how different the participants felt about some lights – and how much they agreed about others.

One thing was noticed by everyone: the very inhomogenous lighting in some places. This was especially the case in a residential street with a mixtures of cold- and warm-white lights and dark spots in between. One of these spots had been used by a group of men for a drinking meeting. “Spooky”, an english participant called the mood there. I felt uneasy and unsafe, which was strange because we stood right in front of a neighbourhood center which cast a warm, inviting light onto the street. Quite cosy, thought another young woman. She didn’t feel a bit unsafe here.

From there, the walk led along restaurants and cafès to an area with night clubs. Between the colourful lights of the establishments, the white mercury vapour lamps seemed useless and lost. They could switch them of, some of the LightWalker commented, and indeed, many of the lights were not working.

A different impression made the street lights on the North side of the river Spree. Too bright, was the verdict for the big street crossing at Warschauer Straße / Strahlauer Allee. “It seems to be as bright as day”, said one young woman.

“Boring” was the comment for the street lights on Warschauer Bridge, which spans over a wide railway area. The orange light of the sodium vapour lamps was felt to destroy all colours. It made a strong contrast to the bright white lights of a big construction site, on which they were still working at 9 pm.


A positive feedback was given for the efforts of some night clubs to put the area between their clubs into a safe and friendly light. This area used to have a high number of criminal activities, but thanks to a combination of creative lights, warm red areas and some security lights, it produced a comfortable feeling. Here our walk came to an end and we took time to discuss our impressions.

We realised how much the perception of light is shaped by our expectations. A young Englishman described himself as very active. He wants to have bright, white lights, even in the evenings. Myself, a country person who is rarely comfortable in cities and night clubs, prefer homogenous light, while Christine Preiser, an expert on night life and night club bouncers, feels very comfortable in the club environment and likes to have some dark spots to relax.

Berlin seen from the International Space Station. Foto von NASA/ISS 2016

During the walk, a Berlin speciality was spotted by our british companions: the differences in clours and light sources. While there are mainly cold-white mercury vapour lamps and LEDs in the former West Berlin part (Kreuzberg), the former East Berlin part (Warschauer Straße) was clad in the orange light of sodium vapour lamps. These are the remains of the divison of the city, which slowly changes. Excitement sparked the traditional gas lamps in victorian style that can still be found all over Berlin. Some of the fixtures have been refitted with warm-white LEDs by now, but Berlin still has a working net of gas lines to ight its streets. This light, so everyone agreed, was very unobtrusive and had a historical charme.

And here some more impressions:

A brightly, but warmly lit restaurant in a side street in Kreuzberg

LED advertisement board at station Warschauer Straße

A brightly lit sports field, at the back you can see the Fernsehturm. The sky is brightened up by skyglow, artificial light that is reflected by the clouds.

The discreetly lit Oberbaumbrücke with cold-white, almost greenish stree lights in the front

Fotos (with exception of the satellite picture) by Annette Krop-Benesch

Do you want to join me for another light walk through Berlin? Then have a look at this post: ‘There’s too much light!’ Another LightWalk in Berlin

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