The white light of Renzo Piano's Modern Wing in Chicago

    Renzo Piano Modern Wing Art Institute Chicago Nichols Bridgeway at night

    I love the Modern Wing, even at night. Veiled in white light, like a bride, she lightens and softens the area around her; no mean trick in what used to be a dark, heavy, masculine, gritty city.

    And this bride of a building offers us another lesson too. You see that orange-ish light along the busway in the photo? (The busway takes conventioneers from downtown hotels to McCormick Place convention center.) Like most parts of American cities, it's lit by sodium vapor lamps. Those were installed throughout the land starting in the 1970's because they reduced energy costs. But that orange-yellow cast in our cities at night is awful. Only Toulouse-Lautrec or James Ensor might find it pleasurable. It's an unnatural color for light and it's mildly agitating - no good for cities in need of calm.

    Night light like snow, should be white not yellow. And it probably will be soon. Within just a few years most street lighting will be done by LEDs. They're coming down in price, they're energy efficient, and their long life reduces maintenance costs. They're also becoming more truly white.

    I look forward to this. Everything will look better at night, though still not everything will look as nice as the Modern Wing. Maybe some day.Source URL:
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