For centuries, Regina Street has been a highly active five-block thoroughfare in the historic town center of Mexico City. However, because of overpopulation, urban disorder, and years of neglect, it had become unsafe to travel down the street at night. But that has started to change thanks to the implementation of a program from Mexico City's Department of Public Works. Known as the Historical Town Centre Rehabilitation Program, the city's initiative brings together a multidisciplinary team of restorers, architects, engineers, lighting designers, and urban planners to recover the city's public spaces for the people who live and work there.

Part of this ambitious goal is an overhaul of the existing lighting strategies. On the city's Regina Street, the program's success is tangible. With the removal of vehicular traffic, the street has been transformed into a vibrant pedestrian-only corridor that displays a sample of Mexico City's new downtown lighting master plan.

Improved safety was one of the primary objectives of the project. “Regina [Street] was one of the darkest streets in the downtown area and by far the most unsecured,” explains Pedro A Garza de Yta, architect and director at Mantenimiento Arquitectónico Integral, the firm responsible for the lighting master plan. The original lighting was a mixture of high-pressure sodium luminaires that created high glare and very low uniformity along the streets with an average illumination level of around 6 lux (0.6 footcandles). The new lighting scheme calls for 9-meter-tall (29.5-foot-tall) light poles equipped with 140W ceramic metal halide lamps specifically designed for outdoor use, replacing the existing 175W or 250W luminaires that were typical for streets in the historic town center. The color rendering index from the new lamp source (70), along with its color temperature of 2750K, aids in improved facial recognition and reinforces a sense of security. Additionally, the new, improved optical control and efficiency of the luminaires provides an increase in illuminance levels by 200 percent, meeting the project's target average illumination of 24 lux (2.4 footcandles), while providing a more even illumination of the pedestrian corridor with a 3:1 uniformity ratio.

In addition to increasing the amount of light in the Regina Street Corridor, the efficient lamp and reflector system used in the new luminaires also has helped to reduce the number of fixtures required by increasing the distance between light poles. As a result of using fewer fixtures, the total energy consumption is now half as much as other streets in the town center, which have not yet been changed to incorporate the new standards. Visual clutter is minimized by the reduced quantity of fixtures, and by selecting luminaires with full cut-off light distribution, the new fixtures reduce glare and prevent light pollution. All of these factors contribute to a more pleasant experience for pedestrians traveling at night.

Several decorative lighting strategies also were introduced to satisfy another goal of the project: city beautification. The lighting of 10 historic buildings that line the mostly residential street were selected to receive special treatment. These included a church, several restaurants, and houses. “We had different approaches,” Garza says. “The first strategy, which was used for six of the buildings, mainly consisted of recessed uplighting to wallwash the façades. We balanced that with luminaires in the upper portion of the façade to counteract the strong shadows created by the uplighting.” The other strategy, used on the four remaining buildings, enhances the unique architectural details of each façade. All of the strategies incorporate LED technology as well as ceramic metal halide and 5W xenon lamp sources to highlight the buildings' textures using grazing techniques instead of floodlighting. By illuminating the vertical surfaces, the designers were able to give the illusion of widening the street and creating a larger volume of space through the pedestrian corridor. Recessed resin blocks with integral 5W warm-white LEDs are scattered across the ground among the paving stones to add visual interest to the corridor.

It was very important to the design team that the city and the local residents adopt the new lighting scheme so that they would develop a sense of ownership of the area that had been missing prior to the renovation. By installing systems that make the space more usable at night, the comprehensive lighting plan at Regina Street has resulted in positive social change for the neighborhood. Inhabitants have gained the confidence to use the space after dark, something that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. “Quality of life is related to the use of public space. A well-lit nighttime environment is fundamental to achieve the urban development that modern cities need,” Garza explains. Using light as a catalyst, Regina Street has been infused with a new sense of vitality, and the groundwork has been laid for a renewed sense of civic pride.

Project Calle de Regina (Regina Street), Mexico City
Client and Urban Designer Department of Public Works, Mexico City
Lighting Designers Mantenimiento Arquitectónico Integral and Avantgarde Lighting, Mexico City
Photographer Diana Solis, Mexico City
Project Size 100,000 square feet
Project Cost $500,000
Watts per Square Foot 0.4

Manufacturers / Applications
Agabekov linear fixtures with 5W xenon lamps for high-lighting building cornice details
Agaled Inground 5W uplights used as paving accent feature along pedestrian walkways
Philips Allscape Wallwashers with 150w 3000k T6 lamps embedded in ground to illuminate building façades; 70W to 150W 3000K T6 spotlights with narrow to flood throws for church bell towers and overall building façades
Philips Lumec pole lights for streetlighting with Philips' Cosmopolis cosmowhite 140W ceramic metal halide lamps