With the introduction of gas light in London in 1813, the nighttime environment of cities was transformed. As lighting educator and historian David Di Laura writes in The History of Light and Lighting (IES, 2006), “As gas lighting spread and its availability became ubiquitous in cities, it produced an independence from darkness that changed the social, work, and personal habits.” Prior, society had equated “night” and “darkness” with fear, danger, disease, and death. Conversely “day” and “light” represented goodness, health, purity, and life. It’s a complex symbolism still
at play today.
As gas lamps gave way to early forms of streetlighting, such as Austin, Texas’ Moonlight Towers (shown), cities became more navigable and accessible to a greater number of economic classes. Lighting became a neutralizer of sorts. Today we inhabit a 24/7 world that has ironically reminded us to reconsider the importance of darkness as a complement to light.