Nighttime design


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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.

Cities Alive, Rethinking the Shades of NightA long envisioned future practice, “nighttime design” stepped into the spotlight with two publications in early 2015. In short, my team and colleagues at Arup have agreed that broadening the purview of urban lighting into a interdisciplinary process of design is the way forward.  Firstly, Cities Alive, Rethinking the Shades of Night.

Here, the Arup description:

“In the past, the attitude of ‘the more light the better’ has led to a general abundance of light, especially in urban areas, but both light and darkness are equally important to our health and well-being,” said Florence Lam, global lighting design leader at Arup. “With the shift towards 24 hour cities, we should not aim to simply recreate the day at night, but instead, we need to carefully consider the role of night-time lighting. We need to design our cities to change depending on the time of night and the different usage patterns of the public realm after dark – articulating what we call the ‘different shades of night’.”

The report highlights that we need to make human centered night-time design a priority in urban development, and one that should be considered from the earliest planning stages. It proposes that night-time lighting should play a more active role in shaping sustainable cities that are more enjoyable, more sociable, safer, healthier and easier to get around.

“Night-time is fundamentally different from daytime,” said Leni Schwendinger, lighting designer and urbanist at Arup. “In many hotter climates, it provides the best conditions for people to use outdoor urban spaces. So it deserves its own design approach, and thinking harder and smarter about street lighting is a vital part of this.”

The report was collaboration between the Foresight + Research + Innovation and Lighting teams at Arup. Involving a range of internal and external experts.

Link to download Rethinking the Shades of Night.  And here, more about the nighttime design philosphy.

Reference to “shades of night“.

Cities of Light, Two Centuries of Urban IlluminationEarlier in the year, Cities of Light, Two Centuries of Urban Illumination was also released.  This comprehensive volume published by Routledge Press is edited by Sandy Isenstadt, Margaret Maile Petty, Dietrich NeumannEach of 31 chapter covers a city – including Boston, Istanbul, Shanghai, Oulu, Derby… my contribution is New York City, with a chapter on a creative lighting strategy for a Queen’s district conceptualized as A Roadmap for Illumination and Community-Building.

At a moment when the entire world is being reshaped by new lighting technologies and new design attitudes, the longer history of urban lighting remains fragmentary. Cities of Light aims to provide a global framework for historical studies of urban lighting and to offer a new perspective on the fast-moving developments of lighting today.

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.

Read about, and purchase Cities of Light, Two Centuries of Urban Illumination