Environmentalism Over Aesthetics

John Barber laments cities' tendency to (rightfully) favor environmental consciousness over aestheticism. Low-carbon street lighting is the latest eco-trend to retrofit, and potentially blight, the streets of Toronto.
October 8, 2008, 1pm PDT | Judy Chang
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"But you never know: Traditionalists frustrated the first green-inspired assault on the old acorn [luminaire, the traditional Toronto street light] back in the 1990s, when the case against it was even stronger than it is today.

At the time, the old city of Toronto was the only municipality anywhere still lighting its streets with grossly inefficient incandescent bulbs, which it kept for mere aesthetic reasons: Its streets at night were uniquely gorgeous, and the only efficient alternative at the time - sodium-vapour lights - were then and remain hideous.

With the greens barking for efficiency, the old city pioneered its own disruptive technology: Traditional acorns powered by metal-halide lamps giving off a bright, white light. Tests showed that the new-old rig outperformed all the latest technology available at the time. Installed widely throughout the central city, the metal-halide acorns still manage to recall the soft-lit romance of yore.

But LED lighting is more efficient still, renewing demands for change. And the old Toronto, in which aesthetics sometimes mattered, is a long-forgotten conceit."

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Published on Wednesday, October 1, 2008 in The Globe and Mail
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