Designer Roger Narboni Turns Hangzhou’s Grand Canal Into A Landmark Of Light

Hangzhou is a core city on the Yangtze River Delta renown for its local natural beauty. The city also plays an important economic role being positioned on the southern end of China’s Grand Canal, which spans over 1,700 km to Beijing in the north. This canal has been significant to the region’s economic development for over a millennium. Spatially, the canal is Hangzhou’s primary defining feature.

Poised for unprecedented growth and rising prominence, Hangzhou looked to its Grand Canal to help strengthen the city’s identity and enhance its public spaces. Designer Roger Narboni was brought on board and, in 2009, almost ten kilometres of the Grand Canal was lit up in resplendent color.

The extensive lighting design was made possible by advances in Philips LED technology, which allowed for dramatic and diverse effects that were still energy efficient. Lights were incorporated in the water as well as on bridges and surrounding parks and structures. Lighting was used to highlight the natural contours of the canal and bordering foliage, echoing the treasured beauty of Hangzhou’s natural environment. Also, the lighting is strategically designed to draw eyes to beautiful views off the canal.

Traditional bridges and pagodas are key aesthetic elements along the canal and they are given special treatment with cascading gold white lighting. This effect is a nice juxtaposition against the modern blue-lit frames on adjacent high-rises. This recent urban design effort has created an award-winning, coherent city centre for Hangzhou, containing a large network of interesting public spaces. In a city where dwelling sizes are small and space is usually tight, these public spaces are greatly appreciated.