In those far-off days, long before the founding of CONCEPTO in March 1988, public lighting was strictly and blandly functional.
Then came the Age of Words – lighting designer, urban lighting, light urbanism, lighting master plan, lighting furniture, architectural lighting, night-time landscape floodlighting.
This was accompanied by totally new theories on urban lighting.
And the Word was Action!
CONCEPTO, created by Roger Narboni and Christian Broggini, started its activities making studies of event and perennial lightings.
At the end of 1988, the young studio began its incredible journey in light urbanism with its first global study entitled, “The Lights of the Town”, designed for Greater Montpellier. This enabled us to establish an efficient methodology and, in France, it marked the beginning of lighting master plans (abbreviated to “Sdal” in French) that are now known, recognised and appreciated all over the world.
In February 1989, our lighting design studio was fortunate enough to be selected by Niort town council to create a night-time landscape one kilometre in length along the River Sèvre which flows through the town centre. This was the first large-scale nocturnal landscape that we designed and it led us to create other huge lighting effects in town centres and on their outskirts.
Following on from the media and popular success and to counterbalance this majestic lighting in the town centre, the Mayor of Niort asked us, in 1991, to look into lighting development master plans for a large low-cost housing estate on the outskirts of the town, known as the Cité du Clou Bouchet. This was an opportunity to apply the urban lighting methodology to everyday deprived, one might almost say derelict, areas and to add a dreamlike quality at dusk that would underline the redevelopment of the Cité. It was also the first time we had based our approach on discussions with the local people and a number of local associations. The experience inspired us to table some innovative proposals that were often contrary to the traditional designs used in many of these suburbs.
At the same time, we created a number of lighting effects for special events such as celebrations, conferences and exhibitions. This sector of our work, managed by Christian Broggini, one of the partners and founders of the agency, came to an end in 1995 as a result of the energy crisis and the agency, under the unique management of Roger Narboni, then specialised exclusively in urban and architectural lighting.
At the end of 1991, we contacted the Etablissement Public d’Aménagement de la Défense (the public development agency for the Défense district of Paris) and offered to stage a major exhibition and international conference, jointly entitled, “Lighting and Towns”. The event marked a turning point in the history of urban lighting and inspired many people to consider a career in this sector.
The first major designs
The competition for the renewal of the avenue called Cours des 50 Otages in Nantes, won in 1991, was the first one in France to integrate a lighting designer in the team of architects. This realization, completed in 1994, gave us also the occasion to imagine with the architects a whole range of light fittings and lighting poles that were not only widely publicised but also copied. We developed new technologies for outdoor lighting (white light, indirect lighting, optical fibres) and we experimented a single tonality of light with a very good colour rendering in both roadways and pavements that finally overcame the dogmatic theory stating that lighting should be differently coloured for pedestrians and vehicles.
The notion of urban lighting was born.
In 1992, CONCEPTO won the competition for the creation of a lighting master plan for the town of Nantes. Thanks to this large-scale experience, CONCEPTO went on to win other competitions in Bordeaux, Roubaix, Clermont-Ferrand, Toulouse, Paris, Rennes, Brussels, Namur, Athens, Jerusalem, Hangzhou, Chongqing, Sao Paolo and so many others that we have in fact recently exceeded one hundred twenty such designs for towns and locations of all sizes, in France and abroad.
Lighting projects on all scales and in a wide range of situations continued, one after the other, until the end of the 1990’s.
Since the year 2000 and 2010, CONCEPTO has expanded its work in other countries (Belgium, Germany, Italy, Greece, Luxembourg, Morocco, China, Israel and Ivory Coast) and built on its expertise in interior and natural lighting that now shown its full potential in architectural projects.
In 2004, the floodlighting of the 2.5 kilometre Rion Antirion Bridge which spans the Gulf of Corinth in Greece was an outstanding human and technical feat and a source of immense pride for the entire studio. A year later, we designed the Lighting development Master plan for the city of Toulouse, in France, creating more than twenty lighting projects including the now famous monumental River Garonne nightscape. This was part of the initial project and it proved to be a major factor in our nomination as winner of the competition.
The notions of night-time landscape, ecology of light, black infrastructure, sustainable lighting, high environmental quality lighting, preservation of nocturnal biodiversity on which we work since 2001 have been tested in a real context in our recent studies and lighting projects.
Our flawless approach will continue with the joint development, with the Aubrilam company, of the first LED street lights with their own photovoltaic power supply and the design of park lightings that will be extremely effective in terms of energy use (2kW/ha) and respectful of the environment.
We are now extending this methodology to all our projects for eco-district, shopping malls, multimodal hubs and office Towers, including it in Public/Private Partnership consultations for the complete renovation of public lighting systems and the creation of illuminations for heritage sites as to the drastic reduction in energy consumption.
This environmental approach also helped us to develop our expertise to optimize the contributions of natural light, for the use of its technical and artistic qualities, in the architectural space.
Today, CONCEPTO is proud of having initiated or contributed to the development of many different lighting technologies and the integration of the lighting component in many urban strategies through awareness of the night-time dimension of urban landscape and the need to take in account the nocturnal territorial scale. We have also been involved in the rebuilding of fragments of outlying urban areas, the illumination of historic town centres, urban displacement policies, the quest for a nocturnal identity, the early stages of urban changes and regeneration plans, the diversification of ambiances for individual districts, respect for local cultural practices and the involvement of local people in the choice of their night-time environment.
Roger Narboni, lighting designer