Are You Afraid of the Dark?

CL |


CMLC 4th Street Underpass Images [1].

The third installment in our Face Lift series, exploring the new face of our city.


mC:t    2015.07.16   




Here at mC:t we sure are! And what better way to deal with our fear than to bring on the light!

Carrying on with our series entitled “Facelift” today we will be looking at how cities and more specifically Calgary is using light to create safer more enjoyable spaces.The utilization of good lighting has been documented as a cost effective way to manage crime rates by means of reducing opportunities to commit crime. Design out Crime a book by Ian Colquhoun states that “lighting should adequately illuminate paths, inset spaces, access and egress routes and signage”.[2] We will be taking a look at how old projects are getting a new look through the use of lighting as well as how some new projects have incorporated light as a significant element of design. These spaces not only aid in matters of safety and reducing crime rate but also manage to generate a place of pride and ownership.[3]


Let’s take a look at a few examples of facelifts using lighting around Calgary:



1st Street Underpass


MBAC 1st Street Underpass Image [4].

Have you ever felt nervous walking through the 1st street underpass which bridges the gap of commercial downtown and the belt line? Scared of the dark like ourselves or even a legitimate concern for your own safety? Well don’t worry, you are not alone! The city of Calgary took a look at the crime statistics around the 1st street underpass and said enough is enough. This is where local firm MBACwas able to step in and provide an answer. Using a multi-layered façade that integrates lighting the underpass is able to transform from a place of passage to a place of engagement. Having just started construction this is something that all of us can look forward to experiencing upon its completion.



Telus Spark Center


Photo of Telus Spark Science Center [5].

The Exterior of the Telus Spark center designed by the Calgary firm Dialog excites a different emotion with its use of lighting. Using a façade which has the ability to display a multitude of colors the building is in many ways is able to express itself to passers-by. Dialog notes that “At a distance, the exterior is a rich patina of color and movement and up close, a detailed framework of identifiable objects and images”[6]. In many ways, the building uses its lighting to not only exist within its environment but also interact.



Langevin Bridge


Langevin Bridge Night Photo [7].

While the east village bridge may be under some controversy currently as to what to name it, the old structure was brought new life in a simple way. The incorporation of lights across the bridge was a simple addition by the city to bring the old bridge new meaning. The bridge is no longer simply a tool of infrastructure but granted the gift to relay messages in the form of visual display; be it pink for cancer awareness or green for Saint Patrick’s day,or whatever color may suit the purpose. The lights on the bridge are multifunctional in that they bring attention and life back to the bridge, stimulating the area which surrounds it and generating discussion. How do you feel about such a simple solution? Is it purely decoration or does it feel like much more?



4th SE street underpass


CMLC 4th Street Underpass Pathway Photo[8].

Completed by the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation as part of their initiative in East village the CMLCstates that “LED lighting in its walls and handrails to make the space brighter and more inviting”. [9] What can be noted about the underpass is that the lighting is consistent which reduces contrast between shadows and illuminated areas. The lighting also has an opportunity to engage its surrounding environment by interacting with the built-in kinetic panels displaying light in a dramatic display.


As you can see through the several examples and scales of lighting facelifts there are many ways Calgary is learning to approach environment interventions. Can you think of any Facelifts recent or upcoming that use lighting to stimulate or change its environment? We would love to hear from you! Post your photos on Instagram using #faceliftyyc and help us compile a growing visual diary of inspiring facelifts in Calgary or simply let us know your findings on our twitter handle@makecalgarytalk.


Next: Coming soon…
Previous: Where do Pop-ups fit in?



[1] CMLC. “4th Street Underpass”. Calgarymlc. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[2]Colquhoun, Ian. Design out Crime: Creating Safe and Sustainable Communities. Amsterdam: Architectural, 2004. 187. Print.

[3]Colquhoun, Ian. Design out Crime: Creating Safe and Sustainable Communities. Amsterdam: Architectural, 2004. 186. Print.

[4] MBAC. “1st Street SW Underpass Enhancement”. The-MBAC. Accessed July 15, 2015.
[5] 02 Design. “TELUS SPARK: The new science center + Creative Kids Museum”. 02 Design. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[6]Dialog. “TELUS Spark – DIALOG.” DIALOG. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[7]Visit Calgary. “Langevin Bridge/Calgary Tower”. Capture Calgary. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[8]CMLC. “4th Street Underpass”. Calgarymlc. Accessed July 15, 2015.

[9]CMLC. “4th Street Underpass”. Calgarymlc. Accessed July 15, 2015.


makeCalgary:talk provokes conversation among Calgarians about the design of our city. Catch up with us on Twitter (@makecalgarytalk), Instagram (makecalgarytalk), or Facebook.



  1. Naji Akbar says:

    Nice post.

    It is good to know the City Hall is always thinking about how to make Calgary safe for its inhabitants, especially at night.

    The lighting done for Langevin Bridge is a good example. It not only addresses the main theme of this post but also makes the route interesting.

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