Local critics say Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s newly unveiled “city of lights” idea and design competition is not as bright as it seems.
Audrey Fischer, head of the Chicago Astronomical Society, says the extra light pollution could cause health risks to people and have harmful effects on city birds.
She said she’s not on board with the idea because excessive light is linked to cancer and mood disorders–a claim that is backed by academic evidence.
Others are worried an excessive use of lights could actually downplay the city’s beauty. Jason Epperson, the lighting and executive director for Lincoln Park’s Greenhouse Theater published an article on the theater’s blog called “Dear Chicago, please don’t bathe our city in pink and purple light.”
Epperson is worried extra light will wash out the innate beauty of the city’s buildings.
“You basically turn it into a giant screen that masks the nooks and crannies of the architect’s design. One only need look at the city’s rendering of the Merchandise Mart for a perfect example,” Epperson wrote.
But the city’s intention is to attract tourists and compete with cities like London and Paris. This still doesn’t sit well with critics.
— Mike Klonsky (@mikeklonsky) June 5, 2014
— Lauran Berta (@LauranBerta) June 4, 2014
— Ron Skleney (@RSkleney) June 14, 2014
— Anne Leary (@backyardconserv) June 9, 2014
Architecture writer for the Chicago Tribune, Blair Kamin, said Emanuel’s pursuit for more tourists could rock relationships between actual citizens and visitors, not to mention increasing tensions between the city and “dark-sky” environmentalists, he added.
But the city says the plan will benefit tourists and locals, and designers will take energy-use into consideration.
“Lighting design is not about creating more light, but using light more efficiently to enhance various parts of the city,” a city spokesman told DNAinfo “Any final design must be energy-efficient and respect migratory bird patterns.”