As creative lighting designer, we are very concerned about the nighttime environment context, which is very variable from a site to another, particularly when we are involved in seaside projects. The seaside night environment is not uniform and can split in at least three zones, from the last point of view on the water until the waterfront, the contact point with large horizon and the great spot to enjoy the sunset and starry night. Therefore, as lighting designer we aim to preserve this feelings, while we have to deal with the legibility and safety constraints, and be aware of lighting pollution.

A night starry sky

Less than 100 years ago, everyone could look up and see a spectacular starry night sky, but now, in our modern world, most of us will never have the chance to experiment the Milky Way. So today with most of the time living in light-polluted cities, people often go to peaceful areas to enjoy moments of relaxation, comfort, and the experience of watching the sky along waterfront is part of this moment. But, it is difficult to fully feel that emotion as the increased and widespread of artificial light impairs our view of the universe and adversely affects our environment, affecting humans, animals and plants’ health. Most of us are familiar with air, water, and land pollution, but light can be a pollutant too. The inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light known as light pollution. Components of light pollution include:

  • Skyglow – brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas
  • Light trespass – light falling where it is not intended or needed
  • Clutter – bright, confusing and excessive groupings of light sources

Human and environmental impact of uncontrolled lighting.

Artificial lighting allows us to engage in nighttime activities along the waterfront that would be impossible or unsafe under normal nighttime conditions. Whether it is for allowing us to get from one point to another, security, or simply making a property more attractive at night, our enjoyment of the night is enhanced by the use of artificial lighting. At the same time, our lakes or beach at night provide a quiet open dark space that gives us privacy and the opportunity to enjoy the heavens. Imagine you are sitting on a dock during a crystal clear summer night, the water as flat as glass, the dark surface mirroring the sky, the stars shining brightly above, a falling star tracing a path across the heavens. Unfortunately, this precious part of our heritage is often obscured by the glare from a distant source of light across the water or by light trespass from a nearby property.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. In most cases, making a few simple adjustments to existing lights will make them more dark sky-friendly and can easily solve the problem of light trespass that blinds us from our view of the night sky. The goal of sensitive waterfront lighting is to balance the ability to see at night with the desire to preserve the beauty of the night.

As lighting designer practitioner in Vietnam, we are used to face multiple situations where lighting contexts are not considered carefully, such as the size and rate of lighting, human moving time, human vision, or the fixtures of lighting. Also the fact is that much outdoor lighting used at night is inefficient, overly bright, poorly targeted, improperly shielded, and, in many cases, completely unnecessary. This light, and the electricity used to create it, is being wasted by spilling it into the sky, rather than focusing it on to the actual objects and areas that people want illuminated. Vietnam is facing with increasing outdoor light pollution, according to local experts, and artificial light from coastal buildings affects coastal creatures, disrupt the World’s Ecosystems, lead baby sea turtles to their demise, birds and insects, in fact a full ecosystem.

A baby sea turtle tries to head towards the moonlight

The good news is that light pollution, unlike many other forms of pollution, is reversible and each one of us can make a difference, and as lighting designer we are on the front row to explain and give answers to action by:


○      Balancing minimal energy consumption with efficient use of lighting. Especially landscape lighting, outdoor lighting or facade lighting.

○      Applying timer and dimmer solution to adapt the quantity of light through the night, from sun until sunrise.

○      Minimizing glare and light with specific luminaires and smarter directional lighting.

○      Creating a clearly legible nighttime environment considering the functions of the space.

○      Using the absence of light as a design tool, a lack of light can be used to guide behavior or to protect the natural environment.

A suitable lighting design for waterfront is aim to make this unique area a destination by night, a special place, playing a key role in special events. This has to be combined with a very attentive analysis and strategy to preserve the natural sky night environment. This dual approach is in fact one of the best occasion for lighting designer to express their art of combining light with shadows, because it’s required a high preciseness in terms of implementations, light intensities and general atmosphere concept. Therefore, this is also our role to raise awareness to our partners and clients because the waterfront is a valuable place for commercial. It can be in contradiction with the will to make this place similar to a city-zone, both of urban planners and architects have a big part of responsibility, and we are glad to share your point of view from the preliminary strategic lighting master plan to fulfill our goal to preserve the night sky.


International Dark Sky association:

Lost in Light video:

Writer: Tuyen Do, Lighting Designer