My research work is about the environment, people, and light. It has grown from an interest on the effect illuminated environment has on people. However this effect, as light itself, is often ignored. Although light makes things visible, light itself is invisible. It is not seen. This may happen also in conceptual level when light is invisible in an environmental research or design. My research work puts the light on the stage. It is focused on the decisive impact of electric lighting in our environmental experience.
Light together with the surfaces, shapes, and spaces of the environmental structure creates the nocturnal appearance of urban environment. This environment is often mastered by street lighting and advertising reflecting the forces of traffic and commerce in modern society. Despite the decisive impact of electric light on urban space, there has been little interest to examine the role of light in our environmental experience. So far most of the lighting research has focused on the aspects of visual performance. This research field has led to the creation of normative lighting regulations for certain functions and numerical lighting standards to create appropriate visual conditions. When the experience of nocturnal lighting environment has been studied, the motivating factor has usually been fear. The possible positive experiences have got little attention when the focus has been on the negative side of the urban nightscape. It is however equally important to look for the favourable effects to get a whole picture of the environmental experiences during the hours of darkness.
Although few would argue about the importance of our environment on our well-being, it has not been until recently that researchers have begun to examine the importance of the visual encounter with our environment. Since then the research has given us a well-articulated body of findings that certain environments help recover attentional fatigue (Berto 2005, Hartig et al.2003), have a positive effect on mood (Ulrich 1979, 1981) and physiological states (Parsons et al 1998;), and may even affect health (Ulrich 1984). These stress recovering environments are called restorative and they appear to have natural rather than urban scene contents.
Stress and insecurity are often present in modern way of life emphasizing the need for supportive environments (Savage 1993). Other typical features are the rapid change of the physical form of urban environment and the decreasing amount of natural areas that have vital role in restorative environments. It is therefore crucial to find out those environmental characteristics that promote well-being and foster positive mood within the urbanised environment.
My research work sees lighting as a key factor in forming an environmental experience. It examines the effects of focus of light and scene contents on the experiences of perceived restorativeness, preference and fear. These factors were chosen as they were considered to affect significantly on the willingness to use urban spaces after dark. They may also affect on the way these spaces are used and how frequent they are used.
Nikunen & Korpela (2009) Restorative lighting environments - Does focus of light have an effect on restorative experience? Journal of Light and Visual Environment
Nikunen & Korpela (2012) The effects of scene contents and focus of light on perceived restorativeness, fear, and preference in nightscape. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management
Nikunen, Eloholma, Rantakallio, Korpela & Halonen (2012) Lighting promoting safety and creating a sense of pleasantness in suburban environments after dark.
Journal of Lighting Engineering, 14, 7-21.
Nikunen, Eloholma, Rantakallio, Korpela & Halonen (2014) Perceived restorativeness and walkway lighting in near home environments.Lighting Research and Technology, 46, 308-328.
Nikunen (2014), Proposal for a new LED road lighting concept. Lighting Research and Technology, 2, 238-239.