Turning off the Eiffel Tower earlier, quite a symbol


Now the Iron Lady goes to bed earlier. Since Friday evening, it ceases to be lit at 11:45 p.m., instead of 1 a.m. Its dazzling golden sparkle, which arises with each change of time in the evening, produced by 40 km of garlands and 20,000 bulbs, shines for the last time at 11 p.m. Without even marking the twelve strokes of midnight. Quite a symbol.

The reduction in the lighting of the monument, decided by the town hall of Paris, owner of the monument, is part of an overall plan to reduce the capital’s electricity consumption by 10%, aligned with the national objective. It also concerns the municipal museums, the district town halls and the town hall, whose lights now also go out at 10 p.m. Since September 17, the Palace of Versailles has done the same and the Louvre ceases to be lit at 11 p.m. Other national monuments may follow.

The symbol is obviously strong, because the history of the Eiffel Tower is inseparable from its lighting (read the marks). It is also so with regard to a long history of the illumination of heritage, which has always pushed back the night, to the point that it has become obvious to see the monuments radiate without interruption. This massive lighting policy is, however, relatively recent. “The lighting of the main Parisian monuments dates back to the 1930s, and the illumination of monuments only became widespread in France in the 1990s”, says Sophie Reculin, historian, author of a thesis on the history of highlighting heritage. The « night out » heritage has in fact been long and very gradual. The first experience dates back to the 1780s, when Louis XIV had his equestrian statue lit on the Place des Victoires in Paris.. “It was extraordinary lighting – all night and all year round – whose intention was primarily political. It is the royal power that is illuminated”says the historian.

After the royal statues, the theaters began to be lit at the end of the 18th centurye century. In the 19the century, the use of gas allowed ornamental lighting to progress, but it was the invention of electricity that would be decisive. In 1844, the experiment of the electric illumination – punctual – of the place de la Concorde opens the way. Artificial public lighting will participate in the reinvention of the city at the end of the 19th centurye century. « The occasional illumination of monuments contributes to this by making the city attractive and the nightlife festive », recalls Sophie Reculin. Bringing out the monuments at night was not trivial. « The illumination of monuments always contributes to the media coverage of the city ‘manipulated’ by politics.underlines Justine Bourgeois, architect, who worked on this question. Heritage allows us to define what we want to do and be. It is a pretext to act on the city. »

By illuminating monuments, the local or national power accentuates visual landmarks and organizes space. It animates the city, designates common spaces, creates an “urban theatre”. It enhances the places that matter, inscribes them in the retinas… In recent decades, the intensification of nightlife, with the proliferation of offices and shops lit up at night, has however come to blur this order. “Initially, the illuminated monuments served as sort of landmarks in the city, but when everything is illuminated, everything becomes a landmark and the landmarks are lost”points out Luca Merlini, professor emeritus of architecture at the National School of Architecture of Paris-Malaquais.

Today, the decision to dim the lighting of monuments could mean more than just saving energy. « One can wonder whether the extinction of monuments does not contribute to the erasure of their physical presence, to their derealization, linked to the rise in power of digital technology and images.asks Justine Bourgeois. Will we go to see a monument immersed in the night when we have his photo in his mobile? » « Public lighting always raises and raises the question of what is common “said Luca Merlini for his part.

Will the monuments escape the pure and simple extinction of the lights? The architect Justine Bourgeois wants to believe it: “Already, over the past ten years, the ecology of light has developed by integrating the questions of light intensity, lighting times, seasons, the durability of lighting devices, which nevertheless remain extremely polluting “, she says. Tomorrow, the lighting of monuments should become « extremely cautious and attenuated, the opposite of extravagance ».


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