Nighttime Design_three pillars
Why Nighttime Design?

The night has the power to invoke a myriad of emotions — from fear to romance, melancholy to excitement. Whatever your feelings, the fact remains that the nighttime consists of half of our time on this earth, and that means half of our time in our cities as well. What can we do to ensure that our cities are truly taking advantage of their 24-hour needs? What does it mean to design for nighttime?

In this episode we talk with Leni Schwendinger, an expert on nighttime design and Director of NightSeeing (and so much more!), on the many types of light, what to do on a light walk, and how to take a holistic look at our cities’ daily light cycles.

The 54-minute podcast: Episode 36: Nighttime Design w/ Leni Schwendinger (link)

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Here, a six minute audio lesson on nighttime design urbanism: an interview by Monocle: The Urbanist, while at reSITE, in Prague, June 2017. “We can look back to Guy Debord… The freedom to wander… looking for the ambience. Nighttime design is the broader discipline where urban lighting leads the way…”

We caught up with Schwendinger, one of the world’s leading voices on the impact lighting can have in our cities. (link) 

Nighttime design and its concomitant Shades of Night analysis were born out of the NightSeeing™ Program

Charles Lane
Charles Lane, light and shadow observations

During the dark hours, a nexus of walking and observing living city streets  — at once intuitive and self activated — merged into a performative and philosophical practice.

2009: I have been testing “nighttime design” as a descriptor for a new urban illumination fortified by expertise and input by fellow urbanists, urban designers, social researchers, geographers, economic consultants, landscape architects, just to name a few. In Cities of Light the phrase was committed to print for the first time.

As you have read in this blog – urban nighttime is illuminated by public, private and found lighting.

Public lighting is provided by the city or utility as the very basic in safety lighting. It is augmented by private sources of lighting – significantly, cars themselves with their headlights. Additionally shop windows, displays and various types of commercial buildings provide light on the sidewalk to help pedestrians find their way cheerfully and safely. Finally the phone booths, bus shelters, light billboards and even ATMs provide what I call “found” lighting. 2009

The phenomenological – reflections and sparkle – glint as figures of found light against the background of mono-typical fields of sodium yellow streetlighting, and more recently as a blinkingly, blindingly white-grey saturation.

NightSeeing 82nd Street Partnership

82nd Street NightSeeing™/Envisioning 2012

How long does it take to synthesize disparate focuses — lighting, city life, community engagement — into a meaningful body of work? Three years, five years? A decade?

Smart Everyday Nighttime Design, international research accomplished with Arup, and partners such as London School of Economics, Despacio and iGuzzini, among others, was a recent culmination of the Light Projects’ 2012-2013 82nd Street Partnership Lighting Strategy: A Roadmap for Illumination and Community-Building.

Nighttime design research

Smart Everyday Nighttime Design, Cartagena

Envisioning the future of nighttime design.

What does your city – or neighborhood – need?

Near future vision: nighttime design teams composed of urbanists and city activators will form bespoke core consultant groups for specific urban regeneration projects. For example, those agencies, developers, associations revitalizing the nighttime economy in one district may need, along with urban lighting, public health and retail consultation.

Another neighborhood might benefit from urban and landscape designers, policy experts and sustainability consultants. Perhaps night visibility, traffic and pedestrian conflicts are a primary concern.  What about addressing the district’s upgrade to LED streetlighting along with a digital platform for seasonal lighting transformations, or for a cultural nighttime district where tourism and branding awareness is important…there is a team for that!

OPEN Sydney

Sydney nighttime strategy

 

 

 

Cities and districts may desire to create broad nighttime guidelines such as the excellent OPEN Sydney Strategy and Action Plan (pdf). It addresses nighttime economy, tourism, and diversity, among other important issues for international cities.

 

 

 

 

NightTube and Night-time commission

London’s Night Tube and Night Time initiative

 

 

 

Another current example is the concerted effort by the London Mayor’s office and Transport for London.  Transport rolled out the spectacular “Night Tube” campaign in August 2016, followed by the inauguration of a Night Time Commission which resides in the Mayor’s office.

 

 

Here, I have shared the process of envisioning a practice and the lurching tiny, and grand, steps that must be made in service of growth. A new understanding of illumination combined with urban design is becoming official, ensconced in city governance, which for theorists and practitioners alike establishes a context for the varied ways to improve lives — in our turbulently urbanizing world.

 

 

Link here for Design Trust for Public Space updates on Under the Elevated, Phase 2

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In 2001, for their 20th anniversary issue Metropolis magazine’s back page featured several architects’ and designers’ quick visions for future designs or objects.

Then, much public space was built as a result of private developer incentives – and meanly edged with serrated metal bars and spikes.  Those were the days when benches were removed from subway stations.

Now, in the age of Google Streetview and a increasingly laser-like focus on pedestrianization, my vision of a “mapping device” that identifies “negative spaces” such as forecourts, sidewalks and parking lots – which was not all that exciting or commonly shared value then — seems prescient.

Next, connecting up atmospheres and activities through electronic controls. A scenography of public light and life.

 

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It was cold, it was dark…normal site study conditions.  

Arup staff and I braved the night with cameras, illuminance meters, laser measurement tools and paper plans to parse the high-pressure sodium nighttime environment. Here, an informal outcome, a 61-second video of the monumental Gowanus Expressway intersection, Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Marvel at the many illuminated phenomena – the blinks, the blurs, the limited color range…industrial building lantern effect, crosswalk retro-reflectivity, the glare of under-bridge fixtures and hazy baby-aspirin colored blanket of light…everywhere.

 

 

… and imagine, if you dare, the future of this site, a pilot project to allow humanity to explore, with pleasure, perhaps fascination, the monstrous forms above and street level destinations that may develop through the taming process of light, green infrastructure and urban design.

UNDER THE ELEVATED: PHASE II is a Design Trust initiative. The website spells out the background, process and profiles the three Fellows.

Nightwalking, A Nocturnal History of London, by Matthew Beaumont.

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The book arrived bedside and surely it “…shines a light on the shadowy perambulations of poets, novelists and thinkers…”(from the publishers, Verso Books).

In the  484-page tome the writer investigates the intrigues of night culture from the renaissance to mid-19th century or in authorial time — from Chaucer to Dickens.

With his own poetic voice, Mr. Beaumont examines the darkness of penury and ‘houselessness’, the roguish elite — ramblers, wanderers and vagrants — and introduces the reader to the “noctambulant and the noctivagant, or common nightwalker”.

He ends the book with a quote from Edgar Allan Poe that starts many of my talks, which I now share with you.

Then we sallied forth into the streets, arm in arm, continuing the topics of the day, or roaming far and wide until a late hour, seeking amid the wild lights and shadows of the populous city, that infinity of mental excitement which quiet observation can afford.


For more bibliographic resources link here.

Guy Debord’s Theory of the Dérive has been instrumental for my life as a citizen-walker. From the Bureau of Public Secrets,  “… dérive, a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiences. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.

An assembly of posts highlighting a facet of 21st century night walking – and passage:

Islington After Dark, A London Light Walk 

Leni Schwendinger Lights the Way

Public Lighting Theory – developing the nexus of lighting and urban design

Mexico City,  Las Calles y Luz de “La Capital”

Public Lighting Walk with Leni

Dérive, a Cultural Week in Manhattan

Dérive, a Cultural Week in Manhattan 

Do you read?

Here, this list is for you: publications on urban design, historical light, stories of sleep, nocturnal narratives, the power of disorder and heterogeneous spaces and places, wrapped in a frame to consider when designing illumination for cities.

Leni Schwendinger's Eclectic Bibliography: Nighttime Design

Two more books released in 2015

Cities of Light, Two Centuries of Urban Illumination

Cities Alive, Rethinking the Shades of Night

Cities of Light, Two Centuries of Urban Illumination can be purchased from Routledge Press.

For a free download of Rethinking the Shades of Night, visit the Arup night-time website.