Living with Nordic Lighting

Project: Research

Project Details


Living with Nordic Lighting examines lighting design and atmospheres in urban spaces. Through qualitative methods the project explores how urban spaces in Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm are felt, used and designed through lighting.

Project aims and background

New LED lighting technologies and political focus on energy efficiency have enabled architects, designers and city planners to orchestrate urban spaces in radical new ways. The dominant premise have been safety and energy savings, but these new technologies are also changing how urban spaces feel - the atmosphere. Atmospheres are a strange sort of object of study: They are different from a table or a building, yet they are still part of defining the feeling of a place. Who have not entered a space and felt the uplifting, romantic, or unsafe atmosphere? Yet, where does it come from? Is the atmosphere inherent in the architecture and infrastructure, or is it just people's mood? It seems to linger in the co-presence of things and people. But that does not make the atmosphere less real, and hence important to understand.

With this project, we explore the relationship between professional lighting design and everyday use of urban space in three Nordic cities. More than simply seeing light as a material phenomenon shed on a passively perceiving body, this project focuses on how the atmosphere is constituted between the designers' intended effects and the everyday practices and meanings of which urban lighting is a part.

Luminosity is a powerful tool in shaping atmospheres of safety, conviviality, contemplation and community belonging. The central difficulty with atmospheres for designers, architects, and researchers is, however, that while atmospheres are felt and intuitive, they are also methodologically difficult to contain and fixate, and different social segments of society may have very different experiences of urban spaces. Taking up this methodological challenge and developing qualitative methods to study light and its role in urban atmospheres in Copenhagen, Oslo, and Stockholm, the project asks: how are atmospheres in urban spaces shaped through an interplay of artificial lighting design and everyday practices?

The project consist of four work packages, focusing on different aspects of lighting and atmospheres

1) In the city: Users experiencing Urban lighting
2) In the home: Urban lighting entering the home
3) In public architecture: Architectural lighting
4) In the design office: Designing urban lighting
Effective start/end date01/01/201831/12/2021

Research Output

Homely Atmosphere and lighting Technologies in Denmark: Living with Light

Bille, M., 2019, London: Bloomsbury Academic. 192 p. (Home cultures; No. 11).

Research output: Book/ReportBookResearchpeer-review

Phenomenographies: Describing the plurality of atmospheric worlds

De Matteis, F., Bille, M., Griffero, T. & Jelic, A., 2019, In : Ambiances. International Journal of Sensory Environment, Architecture and Urban Space. 2019, 5, 22 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearch

Open Access

Phenomenographies: 2019 Special issue of Ambiances. International Journal of Sensory Environment, Architecture and Urban Space.

De Matteis, F. (ed.), Bille, M. (ed.), Griffero, T. (ed.) & Jelic, A. (ed.), 2019, International Ambiances Network/Réseau International Ambiances. (Ambiances; No. 5).

Research output: Book/ReportAnthologyResearchpeer-review

Open Access

The Lightness of Atmospheric Communities

Bille, M., 2019, Atmospheres and Aesthetics: A Plural Perspective. Griffero, T. & Tedeschini, M. (eds.). Palgrave Macmillan, p. 241-255

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


  • 12 Lecture and oral contribution
  • 2 Organisation and participation in conference

Aestheticizing Surveillance: Urban Lighting and Ambient Power

Mikkel Bille (Speaker), & Siri Schwabe (Speaker)

19 Mar 2019

Activity: Talk or presentationLecture and oral contribution

Atmosphere and Change at the Urban Waterfront

Siri Schwabe (Speaker), & Jeremy Hektor Payne-Frank (Speaker)

18 Jun 2019

Activity: Talk or presentationLecture and oral contribution

Illuminating homely atmospheres

Mikkel Bille (Keynote)

7 Feb 2018

Activity: Talk or presentationLecture and oral contribution

We are all ignorant

Mikkel Bille (Keynote)

29 Nov 2018

Activity: Talk or presentationLecture and oral contribution

Press / Media

Interview om lys

Mikkel Bille


1 item of Media coverage

Press/Media: Press / Media