The Influence of Light in the ArenA Boulevard: Dynamic Visibility to Improve the Quality of Residence

Interactive Lightstreet Promo Video (Vimeo)


Pedestrians experience a poor quality of residence at the ArenA Boulevard in Amsterdam. Based on a long observation from the roof of the Deutsche Bank building, it can be stated that the pedestrians walk far apart from each other which causes them to feel vulnerable. By implementing an interactive light street in the pavement of the boulevard the walking trails of the pedestrians can be influenced, causing them to feel safer due to a sense of cohesion. Because the pedestrians react positively on applying visual borders it is possible to attract them into walking more closely together. By using several LED-strips and ultrasonic sensors that measure distance and send this to a server using the wireless communication protocol XBee, the LEDs will light up at the places where pedestrians walk. Street lighting has a positive influence on the pedestrians’ perception of safety. However, because the traditional street lantern does not necessarily increase overall sight, but rather increases the contrast between visible parts and not-visible parts, it is important to work towards a dynamic field of view. This dynamic field of view will light up where pedestrians walk, resulting in giving them more insights in the walking trails of other pedestrians. Therefore, it can be argued that by implementing a light street on the ArenA Boulevard that offers a dynamic field of view, the quality of residence of the pedestrians will increase. To test this hypothesis, a modular light street was designed, developed and applied for a series of experiments. From the results of these experiments it can be stated that not only are the pedestrians motivated to use the light street’s dynamic field of view, but also that the light street actually influences the pedestrians’ walking line by an average of 1,47 meters off the original walking line, meaning that the walking lines can be influenced.


The ArenA Boulevard is a part of the Amstel III / Bullewijk-area in Amsterdam. The district is despite its 500 social housing- and 170 student-housing-accommodations mainly an industrial area. The district annually draws about 16 million visitors, whom mainly shop at the IKEA or go out at places like the Ziggo Dome, the AFAS Live venue or the Amsterdam Arena. The total amount of people working in the Amsterdamse Poort or the office-buildings is almost 50.000 (Gemeente Amsterdam, 2016, Gebiedsanalyse Stadsdeel Zuid-Oost).

Related Work

Based on four two-and-a-half-hour long observations from the roof of the Deutsche Bank, time-lapses were collected; from this information walking lines were established. The conclusions drawn out of the walking lines are as follows:

Figure 1: Heat-maps of area-connotation


To execute a series of different experiments, a modular light street must be designed that can be easily adjusted to any context or scenario. The components of the light street must communicate wirelessly and must be able to adapt to sudden changes. For an illustration of the anatomy of the light street, see figure 2.

Figure 2: The anatomy of the light street
Figure 3: Top view of the light street


The light street has two different modes: an Idle-mode and an interaction mode. The idle-mode is activated as soon as there has been no presence in the light street for over 1.7 seconds, in other words an array with {0, 0, 0, 0}. The idle-mode plays a randomizedDots LED-animation, where each time 30 random LEDs per LEDrail will turn on and take a random color.


At the ArenA Boulevard, a bench is placed by the local government of Amsterdam. This bench is positioned in the middle of the boulevard, giving the pedestrians the option to either walk left or right of the bench, creating a binary setup. Whether the pedestrians chooses to walk right or left would not have any impact on the distance walked from the start-point and the point of destination, both options are equally long. To get meaningful results, three experiments were conducted.

  1. When a person steps into the light street, the interaction mode changes and illuminates the area around the pedestrian. The person is surprised, but can grasp the logic of the light street. When that pedestrian continues his walk, he sees the lights move with him. He walks till the end of the light street and resumes his normal walking pattern.
  2. When a person steps into the light street, the interaction mode changes and lights the area around the pedestrian. He doesn’t understand what has happened. Just now a different animation played. He stands still, looks around him and takes a step back. Confused he resumes his normal walking pattern.
figure 4: Visualisation of the experiment-setup


First of all, a baseline measurement was conducted during the off-peak-hours of the boulevard by doing observations for two hours long. At this point, the light street was not yet placed. From the observations it can be concluded that six pedestrians chose to walk left from the bench and eleven people chose to walk right from the bench. One week later at the exact same time, the light street was placed at the right side of the bench and the same observations were conducted. This time three pedestrians chose to walk on the left side of the bench and twelve pedestrians walked on the right side of the bench and through the light street. By applying an ANOVA-calculation based on these values, resulting in a P-value equal to 0,0474. By choosing the widely used standard of 0.05 for the P-value, we can conclude there is a statistical significance; by placing the light street in a binary setting, it is possible to manipulate the pedestrians’ walking line. This also proves that the pedestrians of the ArenA Boulevard prefer the non-uniform peripheral lighting, compared to the uniform overhead lighting, also known as the traditional street lanterns, at the left side of the bench. However, the limitation of this research is that the time-frame of two-hour observations might have been quite short. The results would have been more trustworthy if the observations would have been longer and more pedestrians would have been observed.

Future Work

An open and wide space such as the ArenA Boulevard has the advantage of providing the pedestrians with a clear view of the public space, but in this case the disadvantage would be that the light street looks minuscule compared to its surroundings. The result of this is that pedestrians only see the light street when they are very close by. Also, in the distance it is quite hard to recognise the object as a light street. As soon as the light street would be elongated it is crucial to replace the power-source for a stronger equivalent. The current power-source is fit to supply the current installation with power, but is already working towards its maximum capacity.


The experiments have shown that the walking lines of the pedestrians on the ArenA Boulevard can be influenced tremendously by implementing a light street. Even though the first experiment may have had too little respondents to test with. As long as there is a non-uniform peripheral light that provides the user with a dynamic field of sight, the pedestrians are inclined to choose this option over the option of walking through a path illuminated by traditional street lanterns. Therefore, it can be stated that by implementing a light street on the ArenA Boulevard that offers a dynamic field of sight, the walking lines can be manipulated.


Although it can be stated that the factors that influence the quality of residence can be controlled and manipulated. With the experiment results it cannot be stated yet that the actual quality of residence can be improved.



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Daan Rongen

Daan Rongen

Creative Technologist • University of Arts London