A dark line surrounded by light guides you across untouched landscapes
In the heart of a mountainous region between Taipei and Yilan in eastern Taiwan, the architecture and urbanism studio Michèle & Miquel, in collaboration with dA VISION DESIGN, has brought to life a unique experience: The Dark Line, a cycling route through the mountains. This project embraces the region’s past, marked by the railway lines that once drove the coal industry, to create an eco-historical route connecting ancient roads and abandoned infrastructure. Its purpose is to discover industrial heritage, celebrate the landscape, and revitalize a region affected by the disappearance of industry. Michèle & Miquel Studio made the decision not to restore the tunnel, allowing its transformation from abandonment to speak for itself. The challenge was clear: to carry out a discreet and “natural” intervention that respected the site’s history.
The guiding concept behind The Dark Line’s lighting project is to “feel the tunnel” rather than just illuminate it, creating more than functional lighting but an experience. With lighting levels of only 10 lux, exceptionally low within, the tunnel becomes a magical place where light accentuates the walls and path, allowing imagination and senses to awaken. The inner tunnel is subtly illuminated, the light surrounds you, creating a sensation reminiscent of an outdoor stroll. The focus is on highlighting the walls to clearly define the tunnel, creating a strong visual impression of the tunnel concept, in which the pavement feels floating. The perimeter and sides are carefully delineated, ensuring that the path can be followed precisely.
The lighting design achieves a seamless continuity between sections illuminated by natural light and interior sections. Unlike typical tunnel lighting that projects onto the floor, here, the walls are illuminated to create a sense of openness and visual connection with the outdoor environment. The resulting visual (treure visual) experience is more pleasant, comfortable, and secure. Upon exiting the tunnel, daylight becomes a constant companion, enveloping cyclists in lush vegetation and the freshness of the mountainous landscape.
This approach also creates a scenographic effect: an experiential path where areas illuminated by natural light contrast with areas of artificial light, creating different perceptions. The floor is open and permeable, with gaps and steel lines with over a centimeter of separation, revealing water and pebbles. Illuminating the floor would not have achieved the desired sense of luminosity, so the decision was made to illuminate from the underside of the walkway to the tunnel walls. Inside, the lane is illuminated solely by reflected light, and outside, it contrasts starkly with nature, becoming the dark line that connects everything and gives the project its name.
The project is realized in a creative, simple, and effective manner, with a continuous chain of lighting pixels placed under the walkway, creating a uniform wash of light on the walls. Additionally, lighting is modulated by sensors to save energy and adjust to the presence of people, maintaining a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere.
“The Dark Line” has been awarded the Grand Prize AFEX 2023 in Venice, recognizing its excellence beyond France. It has also received accolades at the XVI BEAU and the 65th edition of the FAD Awards for Architecture and Interior Design, and it is a finalist in the prestigious 2023 Architecture Awards of CSCAE.
“In The Dark Line, our mission was to transcend mere functional lighting to create an experience, a friendly journey that takes you from light to penumbra and back, revealing surprises at every step. We wanted visitors to feel the tunnel, rather than just see it illuminated, and for the natural daylight to become a constant companion on this journey.”
— Maurici Ginés, Founder and Creative Director of Artec Studio.