What's the Latest Development?
This month the World Monument Fund put Berlin's world-famous gas streetlamps on its 2014 Watch List of sites -- and, in this case, objects -- that are historically significant yet in danger of being destroyed or altered. As part of its plan to make the city more energy-efficient and "smarter," officials will replace the lamps with LED versions that will run on a system designed to alter lamps' brightness depending on who or what is nearby. The goal is to have all but 230 of the 43,000 lamps swapped out by 2020. In response, thousands of residents have signed petitions and staged protests.
What's the Big Idea?
With half of its public street lighting consisting of gas lamps, some of which date back to the 1890s, Berlin owns the title of "most heavily gas-lit major city in the world." Not to be outdone by practicality, opponents claim that many years will pass before the city recoups the cost of installing LED lamps, and that gas lamps will last up to 60 years longer. Proponents note that many of the unique lamp designs will be replicated, so the basic look will stay, if not the actual light source itself. Still, writer Feargus O'Sullivan understands opponents' feelings: "Berlin has already lost so much old stuff that it can’t lose any more without some sense of pain."
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