If you've ever been to Paris, you know what a magical place it can be -- especially at night. And that's no accident.
"Nighttime Paris operates on different levels. There is a constant interplay between the permanence and grandeur of monumental Paris and the serendipity and surprise of intimate Paris," writes Elaine Sciolino in a New York Times travel essay. "The real secret to Paris’s beauty at night can be described in one word: light.
"In some cities, lampposts are designed to light only the sidewalks and streets, so that surrounding buildings recede into darkness. In much of Paris, however, streetlights are attached to the sides of buildings, highlighting the curves and angles of the structures themselves. "
None of this happens by itself. It doesn't happen by starting off with the assumption that public space should be created on the cheap. And it doesn't happen by thinking of aesthetics as a we-can't-afford-it frill.
Lighting the monuments, churches, bridges and public buildings of Paris is not left to chance. The project to adorn the Eiffel Tower with 20,000 flashing lights (they dazzle for 10 minutes every hour on the hour until after 1 a.m.) cost $5 million and involved 40 mountaineers, architects and engineers who had to endure high winds, raging storms, pigeons and bats.
An entire lighting division in City Hall is responsible for choosing the design, style, color, intensity and timing of the lighting for nearly 300 structures.
"Wasted" money? If you asked most Parisians, I believe they'd answer non. Considering the quality of life it offers residents as well as the appeal to tourists worldwide, it looks to be money well spent.