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Neon lights once represented feasting and decline. After regaining a new life, they will teach the national uniform sign

Time:2020-10-02 FONT:bigMinmin


On Nanjing East Road in Shanghai, when night falls, colorful neon lights will quietly light up, making the streets "faced up to the sky" during the day as if they have been "heavy makeup".

The neon signs that were born in the last century have gone through a century. In China, they were destroyed as a product of the bourgeoisie. With the rapid development of the Chinese economy after reform and development, the neon signs have revived on Nanjing East Road and continue to serve Shanghai. Add eye-catching colors to the night scene.

Night view of Nanjing East Road

Not only in Shanghai, but all over the world, this sign has been a symbol of the prosperous metropolis since the birth of neon lights, from Las Vegas to the streets of Paris, from Shinjuku in Tokyo to Mong Kok in Hong Kong, neon lights Signboards can be seen everywhere, they are the most individual symbols of the street shops after twilight, and the most fascinating night view of the modern city. After several changes in lighting fixtures, they have stood firm.

Neon lights on the streets of Hong Kong
Neon lights in Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Compared with the century-old legendary neon signs, the unified renovation movement of store front signs that is sweeping the country now can be said to be a cultural one size fits all. How to preserve the characteristics and style of urban shops is a difficult problem for urban planners, perhaps the history of neon light transformation It is a good reference object.

The street is unified sign

Neon lights were born in the rise of modern cities, and are the product of lighting technology and economic development

Many of us may not know Moore (Daniel McFarlan Moore), but the Moore lamp he invented in 1898 has a profound influence on the development of world lighting technology.

This Moore lamp consists of a gas-filled glass tube with a diameter of about 2 inches. Electrodes are installed at both ends, and the air in the tube is sucked. Then a small amount of gas, usually nitrogen or carbon dioxide, is injected. Finally, the electrodes at both ends are connected with current. The gas in the tube will produce a continuous, bright and stable discharge light source. There are many forms of gas discharge, among which the most commonly used glow discharge can form neon lights and electrical indicators, and the other commonly used arc discharge can form fluorescent lamps and high-pressure mercury. Lamps and metal halide lamps, etc.

3 miniature neon lights

An electrical engineer and inventor from France, Georges Claude (Georges Claude) modified this Moore lamp, injecting the inert gas neon in the glass tube, which is also pronounced Neon, which emits a bright red orange in the gas discharge , This is the earliest neon light. Claude started to produce neon lights at Air Liquide in France and brought this neon to the Grand Palais Auto Show in Paris in 1910. Two dazzling neon lights with a length of 12 meters attracted the attention of the world.

George Crowder showed his first one in 1910

In 1913, Claude developed the technology to purify inert gases such as neon and argon. At the same time, it minimized the attenuation of the electrodes, which greatly improved the service life and stability of neon lights, and the neon lights were widely promoted.

In the same year, the first shop neon signs illuminated the night sky of Paris. By 1919, the entrance of the Paris Opera was also decorated with neon lights, which covered the facades of shops in many bustling streets of Paris.

In 1926, Frenchman Jacques Risler (Jacques Risler) developed a fluorescent coating, which was another major breakthrough in neon light technology. Risler uses neon lights with gas mixtures such as argon and mercury, which emit a lot of ultraviolet light after generating electricity. These ultraviolet rays activate the fluorescent coating of the glass tube to produce different colors on the surface, thereby increasing the color range of the neon lights. At the same time, the combination of various fluorescent coatings can also form more than two different colors in a tube.

Neon lights on the streets of Paris, France in 1931

After the Second World War, phosphor coating technology began to be used in color televisions. The development of color television phosphors further promoted the increase in the color range of neon lights. In the 1960s, neon sign designers could use about twenty Designs in several colors, and there are now nearly 100 available colors.

In addition, the developer controls the flashing speed of the neon tube by using the frequency divider controller to produce an alternate flashing effect, forming a neon animation, making the neon lights in the night more attractive.

The rich colors of modern neon lights
Neon animation is very visually appealing

Neon lights are popular in the design range, and they were once lonely with the development of technology.

In 1923, Claude and his French company Claude Neon (Claude Neon) introduced neon signs to the United States by selling two neon signs to the Packard car dealership in Los Angeles, and neon lights quickly became a popular lamp for outdoor billboards. At this time, although neon lights have become popular all over the world, the popularity is not as high as in the United States.

In 1923, America’s first neon sign

Events such as the Chicago Century Progress Exposition (1933–1934), Paris World Exposition (1937), and New York World Exposition (1939) have attracted attention because of the neon lights as the architectural feature of the venue. The neon light development period from the Second World War to the 1950s is also known as the golden age. At this stage, the installation boom of neon lights swept across the United States. Times Square in New York is famous for using advanced neon light technology.

Neon lights in Times Square in New York City, USA in 1940

The development of Las Vegas as a resort city is inseparable from neon signs. The famous American writer Tom Wolf wrote in 1965: “Las Vegas is the only skyline in the world that is neither Buildings like New York are not cities made up of woods like Wilbraham, Massachusetts. They only have signs. People look at Las Vegas on Route 91 from a mile away, and they can’t see the buildings. Objects, there are no trees, only signs. But such signs, they stand up, rotate, swing, and fly in shape. Exhausting words cannot describe their charm."

Neon lights are a symbol of Las Vegas

In addition, there are many museums and artists in the United States that are also committed to the promotion of neon lighting and art, including the Neon Art Museum in Los Angeles founded by neon artist Lili Lakich in 1996, and the Neon Museum in Las Vegas in the same year. , The American Signature Museum built in Cincinnati in 1999, etc. In addition to displaying neon art exhibits, these museums also displayed the original neon signs and published a number of photography books about neon lights to arouse people's attention to neon lighting.

Neon sculpture by artist Stephan Huber

On the other hand, with the advancement of technology, fluorescent lights have gradually become popular, and the usage rate of neon signs has gradually declined after reaching its peak. It has gradually been replaced by brighter and energy-saving fluorescent signs. Now, LEDs are recognized as the most efficient lighting. Light sources, they have gradually become the mainstream of sign lighting. According to a survey by the "Business Times" (Signs of the Times), in 2007, American neon-illuminated signboards accounted for 33% and LED-illuminated signboards accounted for 23%. So far, only 18% of signs use neon lights. Neon lights are no longer fashionable. Only those shops that wish to evoke the nostalgia of the 40s and 50s still choose neon lights as their signs.

Neon lights on the streets of Las Vegas, USA

Neon lights are a witness to the urban development of Shanghai, and they have been revived after great ups and downs

Since the 1930s, the neon craze has also come to the East. Shanghai, once the largest city in the Far East, has become the center of neon lights in the East.

Old Shanghai was the center of neon lights in the East at the beginning of the last century

Old Shanghai Beach is a paradise for adventurers and capitalists. The prosperous economy here makes the development of neon lights a fish in water. In 1926, neon lights appeared on the streets of Shanghai for the first time. In the window of Evans Book Company on Nanjing Road, the English word "ROYAL" of neon lights from abroad was first displayed in front of Shanghai residents. This almost coincided with the time when neon lights entered the United States.

In the same year, Shanghai’s first neon electrical appliance factory—Far East Chemical Manufactory was established. They later produced Shanghai’s first neon sign, the "Xianshi" three-dimensional signboard of Xianshi Company on Nanjing Road, and the one installed on the roof of the Great World. Multiple neon signs.

In 1928, Li'an Electric Co., Ltd., opened by American businessmen Swayze and Heiner, produced the largest neon light advertisement in Shanghai before liberation—red tin-packed cigarettes. The cigarettes on the billboard were presented in turn. The last one was lit with the cigarette butt on. It is also surrounded by green smoke, which is eye-catching.

Shanghai's largest neon sign before liberation

After the expiration of the cigarette advertisement, this sign was converted into a honeycomb brand woolen yarn advertisement to be more distinctive. The outside of the trademark was covered with many bees flying back and forth. The scene of entering the honeycomb was simulated by lighting and extinguishing, which was very visually stunning. force.

These neon signs with excellent decorative effects make the night of Shanghai in the east as good as Paris, New York and other metropolises in the same period. Throughout the 1930s, Shanghai had not only wholly foreign-owned or Sino-foreign joint venture neon light manufacturers, but also several large factories opened by Chinese. Before the liberation, Shanghai had 32 neon light factories run by Chinese.

During the War of Resistance Against Japan, all walks of life in Shanghai were in depression, the advertising industry declined, many advertising companies were disbanded, advertising painters changed their jobs, urban lights were controlled, and neon lights were not allowed at night until the victory of the war.

After the liberation of Shanghai, the economy recovered. Shanghai cleaned up and rectified a large number of street signs, signboards, neon lights, and window advertisements, and the appearance of all commercial streets was completely new.

However, from the difficult period of the national economy that began in the 1950s to the Cultural Revolution, neon lights were "products of capitalism". The representatives of "feasting and feasting" were dismantled and replaced, leaving only Nanjing Road, Huaihai Road, Sichuan North Road, Yuyuan Shopping Mall and other commercial businesses. There are a few neon lights in the area.

The few Shanghai buildings that kept neon lights in 1957

After the reform and opening up, Shanghai, as a bridgehead for economic development, has renewed prosperity in all walks of life. With the development of socialist material civilization and spiritual civilization, the night scenes of Shanghai’s major commercial streets have been lit up again, although the Huangpu River has increased a lot. Large electronic display screens, but only the neon signs on Nanjing Road can best show the prosperity and heritage of Shanghai.

It can be said that the neon sign is the identity symbol of Shanghai as an international metropolis.

Neon lights on Nanjing Road after the reform and opening up

In modern society, neon lights are not left behind. They have been transformed into a gorgeous transformation and still represent the charm of a bustling city

In modern society, neon lights can no longer represent the cutting-edge technology of lighting, because they are not energy-saving and high maintenance costs. Workers in the production environment are likely to inhale mercury-containing glass powder and phosphors, which can cause heavy metal poisoning. Violent damage or natural disasters can cause damage, which can easily cause fire and electric shock.

Neon Factory in America

When more energy-saving, environmentally-friendly and safe LED lighting began to be fully popularized, the development of neon lights seemed to have come to an end. Governments around the world were also strengthening the control of neon lights for fire safety, environmental pollution and other reasons. Many commercial districts banned them. Use neon lights. This kind of power-hungry and dangerous lamps seems to be on the stage of history.

However, as mentioned in the above data, even in the United States, where LEDs are widely used, 18% of signs still use neon signs. The reason is that apart from Americans who love neon lights too much, neon lights have bright colors, attractive lines and night lights. The colorful atmosphere is not something other electronic lamps can replace.

There are still plenty of neon lights on the streets of New York

At the same time, with the development of the interior decoration industry, more and more designers like to introduce this luminous logo with a sense of time into the interior design. Whether it is industrial or modern, neon three-dimensional characters are indispensable Design material.

Indoor signs made of traditional neon lights

Not only the decorative effect of neon lights, but also energy saving and safety, LED neon lights came into being. Compared with traditional neon lights, LED neon lights have a huge improvement in safety and luminous color. LED neon lights emit light in a low-voltage environment, which greatly reduces the risk of fire or electric shock. On the other hand, although traditional neon lights have nearly 100 colors, they are still much less than LED lights. Moreover, the long life of LED lights is unmatched by traditional neon lights. Once installed, they can be maintained for a long time, and the price is much lower than traditional neon lights.

Energy-saving, safe and colorful LED neon lights

Of course, LED neon lights are not without shortcomings. Compared with traditional neon tubes that emit 360 degrees in all directions, LED neon lights can only emit light toward the front. This also simulates the most distorted part of LED tubes on the effect of neon lights, which can be seen from a non-frontal angle. Come out.

However, the shortcomings do not conceal the advantages. The environmental protection, energy saving, safety and high-quality characteristics of LED neon lights are destined to make them an effective substitute for traditional neon lights.

LED neon lights can only shine on the front

Except for some outdoor signs pursuing the effect of traditional neon lights, most locations have begun to use LED neon lights as three-dimensional luminous signs, making neon signs, the most characteristic lamps of the modern era, continue their charm in modern society and penetrate indoors Design and other fields.

The safety of LED neon lights allows it to be used indoors

The century-old neon light tells the nation’s signboard unified transformation movement what is the personality of the city

Finally, I have to mention the current “unification” transformation of domestic signboards. Many netizens have revealed that the signs in some places are "unified". The fonts, colors, and sizes of the signboards of merchants on the whole street are exactly the same, except for the content. , There is no difference between the logos of the stores, and because of the lack of aesthetics of the managers, there are various "qingming winds" and "funeral winds", which not only fail to "beautify the city", but lose what various shops should have The unique personality even makes the city’s culture and memory lost.

"Funeral style" unified signboard makes the store lose its personality and

Throughout the historical cities all over the world, whether it is the flowery streets of Paris or the small shops on the streets of Tokyo, there is no kind of cityscape that achieves cultural inheritance by erasing the personality of the store's facade.

Individual signs of Japanese street shops

The large neon signs on Nanjing Road in Shanghai stood in the night sky a hundred years ago, becoming a landmark of Shanghai, bringing a prosperous scene, and giving Shanghai a cultural connotation on a par with international metropolises such as London, Paris and New York.

With the continuous progress of material civilization construction, our spiritual civilization construction should also be promoted simultaneously, avoiding one size fits all in the management of urban culture, retaining the city's individuality, store characteristics and architectural style, so that the cultural roots can continue.

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