How to light a road that has been so carefully integrated into the national landscape of the Noardlike Fryske Wâlden? According to NEXT Architects and Arup, the best way to do this is to cherish the darkness. The lighting design for De Centrale As brings architecture, nature, landscape and culture together to strengthen the experience and identity of the road.
De Centrale As (N356) is a new highway in East Friesland, with a length of 24km between the cities of Dokkum and Nijega. In the highly urbanised Dutch countryside, this is an exceptional area where it is still possible to experience the natural night sky. NEXT and Arup therefore took a special approach in the lighting design. Their point of departure was not ‘where’ and ‘what type of’ lighting is needed. Rather, they examined the road from the standpoint of darkness. Was lighting even necessary?
The main approach to the lighting is that the road is a guests in the landscape, and that users light their own way with their headlights. Taking this into account, safety on the roadway is addressed by providing visual cues through reflection and, where necessary, low light levels. This minimizes light pollution and also visual discomfort glare to drivers. For example, the daytime light levels of the Aqueduct under the Princess Margriet Canal are reduced down to 30% at night. This reduces the contrast between light and dark, making additional lighting around the Aqueduct unnecessary. Where lighting is necessary for safety, such as conflict areas, low light levels are used. This is the case at roundabouts where just one multi-headed lamppost has been placed as a beacon in the center. A small pole light only where cyclist and cars cross paths is added to light the intersection but also to give a visual cue to motorists that their extra attention is needed. The wooden lampposts enhance De Centrale As’ visual identity, while minimising the highway’s impact on the Noardlike Frisian Wâlden.
The lighting design, however, is not just functional. At key moments where the main road passes through a landmark, the lighting accentuates a special feature of the infrastructural design, such as the cor-ten steel in the Doniawei. The lit landmarks provide an intuitive sense of location along the road.
In addition to the minimal ecological impact, NEXT and Arup’s lighting design also minimized energy use, material usage for cables, and overall cost . This makes De Centrale As an exemplary project for roads without obtrusive light. This approach also fits within the broader vision to fully integrate the road and the landscape.
De Centrale As is a project commissioned by the province of Friesland. NEXT architects, icw H+N+S Landscape Architects, was closely involved in the realization process, the integral vision for the design and integration of the artworks, (bicycle) bridges and hop-overs, and for the preparation of the landscape and planting plan.