Sylvain Bigot jokes, “I’m the bridge lighting designer.” Bigot, principal of Neo Light, a firm in Joué Lès Tours, France, has illuminated the Saint Satur Viaduct and the Pont de Montrichard, for which he was awarded first prize in the 2004 Light Competition, which is overseen by the French Ministry of Culture. This year, he earned the same honor with his scheme for the Langeais suspension bridge over the Loire River.
A bridge has connected the French town of Langeais to the municipality of Chapelle-aux-Naux since 1849. Its current incarnation has spanned the Loire River since 1950, yet problems in its erection required recent reconstruction work to correct. Original builders Baudin-Châteauneuf replaced structural elements in the deck and the suspension cables in 2005. Concurrently, government officials held an open competition to implement a lighting scheme, for which Bigot proposed blue atmospheric lighting and bold shadows to highlight the bridge’s form and texture. He won the job in May 2006, and realized the design six months later.
Bigot negotiated two inspirations in his work. In response to the Loire’s calmness, he determined to create “a very quiet image of the bridge,” he says. The architecture of the structure, itself inspired by a 15th-century Langeais chateau, also influenced his direction. Four pointed arches, for example, are a direct reference to the chateau, and provide an impressive entrance to the town. “Going through the entry,” Bigot says, “is like going through the chateau.” His choice of predominantly blue lighting—“the color of royalty”—reinforces the effect, and mimics the blue of the water at sunrise. To pick out the five decks suspended between the bridge’s four reinforced concrete towers, Bigot installed 150 blue, single-watt LEDs on the decks’ sides.
At the top of each tower, a gallery of narrow arches is lit with metal-halide lamps equipped with blue filters. Suspension cables, on the other hand, pick up only blue spill from light hitting the gallery arches; Bigot explains that highlighting the cables would have been too commonplace a gesture, or “déjà vu.”
Up-down metal halide-LED luminaires placed 11 feet above the roadway act as street lighting and also brighten each tower archway. In similar double duty, Bigot fixed white LED floods to the underside of the deck to accent the turrets’ circular bases, and used a narrow-beam white uplight to graze the turret wall, revealing wall texture. Wide-beam metal halides underneath the deck bathe the bridge supports in blue light.