Lighting is an essential element of our 24/7 world

The world is urbanizing at an unprecedented pace. Once dominant, rural and agricultural populations are now city-bound as people seek new job opportunities and better living conditions.

NightSeeing: Mega-Cities

Click to enlarge

Numeric projections and issues such as the speed at which large cities have burgeoned into mega-cities, the differentiation between”Mega” and “Global” cities and comparative economic, social and health statistics are numerous.* Dr. James Canton, a global futurist and social scientist, states that there are currently twenty-six mega-cities**. This designation is based purely on population; mega-cities are quantified as more than 10-million inhabitants. “Large Urban Agglomerations” consist upwards of  5-million inhabitants and thus include mega-cities. Global cities are those with highly-developed economies and institutions with a high degree of coordination.***

Thus, the urban night is a critical zone for study, design and application

In 2003, I proposed the future malleable, responsive, illuminated city as part of my curriculum at New School/Parsons School of Design’s Designing Urban Nighttime Environments based on “shades of night“.  At that time urbanists and the real estate industry popularized the phrase “24/7” (hours/days per week) to invoke vitality.  It was my sense that as nighttime activities and flexible working hours increasingly redefined urban experience, greater emphasis should be focused on illuminating the after-dark environment.

Now, “smart”, electronic systems for adaptable, sustainable cities are emerging.  These systems control illumination so that light is switched on and off, or dimmed, to save energy.  I propose to broaden the criteria to encompass social sustainability factors such as public health and economic development. Within this vision, local considerations  — real-time activities in the nighttime public realm such as shops open and closed, types of building usage — factor into lighting control plans.  The first step is to understand existing conditions in specific vicinities.

In 2009, as an outcome of my guided student tours, the NightSeeing, Navigate Your Luminous City program was invented to present both an observational and critical review of “what is”, i.e. existing conditions of night-zones, through walking tours with the public, stakeholders, and professionals to encourage transformational public design palettes.  NightSeeing is a method of gleaning community needs and desires for districts undergoing revitalization. The program continues to develop globally, providing an opportunity to compare cultures of light and illumination, sharing with colleagues, friends, and strangers all over the world.  My objective is to walk all of the mega-cities in the near future.

NightSeeing is a preparatory, experiential move. The intent is to raise awareness of all stakeholders that effect — and are affected by — light in the city. It aims to educate the populous, and the power-broker, with an aim toward safe and creative nights in the public realm.

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* Refer to World Population in 2050: Assessing the Projections, a text by Joel E. Cohen for the most current issues

** Mega-cities illustrated by photographs here in the order of Dr. Canton’s “Significance” article

*** Refer to Megacities vs Global Cities: Development and Institutions, Lise Bourdeau-Lepage and Jean-Marie Huriot for the distinction between mega and global -cities

Other Resources:

Website

NightSeeing, Navigate Your Luminous City

Video

NightSeeing Preview Part 1 and Preview Part 2 – Both online briefings for participants

Video of the actual London LightWalk, Part 1 and here, Part 2.

Night City with Leni Schwendinger, in Greenwich Village

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                 NightSeeing is a trademark of Leni Schwendinger Light Projects LTD        
       and is dedicated to co-creator, Mark Kramer, Light Projects’ former writer-in-residence

A launch to the season of golden slanting sun and naturally tinting leaves, here is a seasonal selection of commentaries voted the best at Light Project studio — a visually warm celebration of the coming cool weather.

It’s autumn in New York, The gleaming rooftops at sundown, Oh Autumn in New York, It lifts you up when you run down.  Glittering crowds and shimmering crowds, In canyons of steel, They’re making me feel – I’m home.

Leni Schwendinger's NightSeeing™ / Livable Cities, LyonLivable Cities: Walk with me in Lyon through magenta-pink immersed streets

Fête des Lumières; a NightSeeing™ LightWalk in Lyon

Leni Schwendinger stands by the Triple Bridge Gateway (for Dwell Magazine)

An interview about urban lighting of our city as room, the body; home to the heart. 

As You Light It: Dwell Magazine Video and Leni Schwendinger


Sackler Center, Brooklyn Museum; Judy Chicago's Dinner Party. Light Projects worked closely with Ennead architects.

2009 AIANY Design Awards include Brooklyn Museum’s Sackler Center

This interactive light/art/science sculpture is an public outreach artwork created to explain gravity.

Astronomy’s New Messengers: Listening to the Universe with Gravitational Waves

Publicolor is our favorite non-profit. We illuminate their benefit in a high-school gym annually.

Publicolor, Color is Energy

HTO Park and Bryant Park, two great urban public spaces.

Accolades and Finales (and the Winter LightWalk)

Triple Bridge Gateway, Manhattan

Light Projects objective: transform neglected infrastructure in our urban nighttime environments

Triple Bridge Gateway: Award and Lecture

Which is your favorite Leni Schwendinger, Fusing Art + Design with Light post?

Public Art at Main Street Garden Park:

SPRING Lights Change to SUMMER

SpectraScape, the public art installation comprised of video bands of light that scroll across the green glass shelters at Main Street Garden Park will shift from the spring colors – hot pinks and white – to summer soft pink, lavender and yellows – on June 21, as the Summer Soltice transpires. On Tuesday evening viewers will see a dynamic media transmission echoing the summer landscape of the garden park.

Preliminary Video Color

DESIGN PROCESS: Preliminary Spring to Summer colors.

Here, a silent film of the design and construction process:  SpectraScape – an Interactive Artwork Under Construction.  The project progressed from construction to video and seasonal programming, shown in this short video: SpectraScape – On-site Programming. In the end, a crowded and joyful opening event included my talk on Dallas Main Street Garden Park – Ribbon Cutting.

Video Color Refinements

DESIGN PROCESS: Spring to Summer color refinements. Final video pixel proportions and color distinctions

SpectraScape, inspired by the colors of the seasonal foliage in Main Street Garden Park, interacts with park visitors when they enter the green glass shelters.  The horizontal scroll of color freezes as interior lights illuminate the shelter space when visitors step in.

The presentation of Spring in SpectraScape is best viewed just after dusk, which is clearly identified by the white color bands that identify the 30 minutes of sunset before resuming with the seasonal rhythmic flash of color that races across the top of the shelter.  This work inhabits the City’s first urban park landscape in central Dallas, Main Street Garden Park located between Commerce and Main and St. Paul and Harwood streets.

Leni Schwendinger

With over twenty years of work as both lighting designer and public artist, Leni has developed her lighting philosophy and in doing so, has refined the possibilities for light in the urban environment.  She has been the recipient of numerous professional awards, including several “Lumen” awards from the Illuminating Engineering Society, the Society for Environmental Graphic Design and the NYFA Fellowship for emerging and media art.

The City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA) works to enhance the vitality of the City and the quality of life for all Dallas citizens by creating an environment wherein arts and cultural organizations can thrive so that people of all ages can enjoy opportunities for creative expressions and the celebration of our community’s multicultural heritage. Our mission is to establish a cultural system that ensures that ALL Dallas citizens and visitors have an opportunity to experience the finest in arts and culture.  More information on the programs and services provided by the OCA can be found at www.dallasculture.org.

Links to other media about SpectraScape and the design process at Dallas Main Street Garden Park

NightSeeing™ Islington, London

Photo by Leni

The NightSeeing program’s intention is to open people’s eyes to an existing nighttime milieu, as well as providing an overview of public lighting theory in an experiential setting.

NightSeeing™ Islington, London

Photos by Leni

NightSeeing was presented on January 11th, 2011, as part of the Architecture, Residential, Commercial (ARC) Lighting Show in London.  This interactive experience was a guide to the nocturnal lighting environment, culminating in an hour-long evening walk through The Angel, Islington district.

Prior to the program I worked with the hosts on a virtual event preview to brief conference attendees for registration.  (links to Preview Part 1 and Preview Part 2).

NightSeeing™ Islington, London

Photos by Leni

NightSeeing London consisted of two parts.  The first section comprised a LightTalk during conference hours, providing a basic understanding of the systems lighting our cities. The second aspect, LightWalk, was the after-dark walk, in which I decoded the shadows, emanations and reflections that defined the nightscape—from shop silhouettes and signage to streetlights and the phantom photons of passing cars.

NightSeeing™ Islington, London

Photos by Leni

Numbering approximately 50 participants, , we started off from the Business Design Center – equipped for the London weather with glowing umbrellas, a gift from Lighting Alliance/UK. As the group explored the rain-whipped streets of The Angel in Islington—amid the pulsing neon and Saturday night pedestrian and vehicular traffic—the attendees’ many observations and insights created the atmosphere of a movable symposium on the after-dark urban environment.

NightSeeing™ Islington, London

Photos L to R by M Kramer, Andy Spain, M Kramer

Among the significant features of The Angel we focused on were the distinctions between two of the district’s retail sites.

N1 Centre, with the glare of stark white-metal surfaces and shop fronts, was offset by illuminated public art.

NightSeeing™ Islington, London

Camden Passage was distinguished by its handmade surfaces—especially its painted signs and the charming window displays.  In one instance, the reflection of high-pressure sodium light from a lettered sign created an illusion of gleaming gold.

I was pleased and astonished that the attendees at the ARC Show NightSeeing™ were from many nations— including South Africa, Serbia, Germany, Netherlands, France, Norway, and of course, the UK.

Moreover, The Angel event was for me, personally, a kind of homecoming. In the 1970s, I resided in North and East London for a number of years.  Bicycling to Camden Passage and the Chapel Market, in the Angel, and riding the 73-bus and the Northern Line are reference points in my memory of London.  I attended London Film School in Covent Garden, and learned to be very observant of a fully sensorial London with its familiarly welcoming sounds, sights and smells.  What a privilege and pleasure, then, so many years later, revisit these environs, and to be in the Angel as an interpreter to of the after-dark streets.

Here, on YouTube, video of the actual LightWalk courtesy ARC Show’s partner UBM Interiors, Part 1 and Part 2.

The idea for the NightSeeing program originated with a class I taught—at New York‘s Parsons School of Design—in which we would explore urban environments at night.  As soon as we walked out the door there were things to contemplate and discuss. The smallest pixel of light turned into a subject. The excursion became like a treasure hunt, a way of recognizing both “found”, existing light and designed light.

NightSeeing™ Islington, London

From  these modest beginnings, NightSeeing  evolved into site-specific itinerary for the benefit  of lighting designers who work with architects, landscape architects, engineers and other urban design professionals illuminating city structures and locations.

The NightSeeing programme focuses on an ever expanding variety of luminous possibilities.  My personal dream is to take NightSeeing™ to 50 cities in two years.

NightSeeing™ is a trademark of Leni Schwendinger Light Projects LTD.

All photos courtesy Andy Spain Photography except where noted.

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NightSeeing Video

NightSeeing Preview Part 1 – an online virtual briefing for participantsand Preview Part 2

Video of the actual LightWalk, Part 1 and here, Part 2

Night City with Leni Schwendinger

Other NightSeeing Resources

Blog articles, including Times Square, Lyon, Washington D.C.

NightSeeing Website, including guestbook


Leni Schwendinger's NightSeeing™ / Livable Cities, Lyon

Visual memories of December 2010 are clothed in a vapor of magenta pink.

During the famous ‘Fête des Lumières‘ in December 2010, Philips International Communications invited me to join their Livable Cities event. 

The event consisted of a panel, dinner and a LightWalk amongst the winding streets of Lyon to directly engage and educate international journalists on issues of lighting in the nighttime environment.

Leni Schwendinger's NightSeeing™ / Livable Cities Lyon

Lyon is the third largest city in France. It is located between two rivers—Rhône & Saône—and is defined by rocky cliffs, castles and Roman ruins.  Lyon’s Light Plan, the permanent illumination of more than 200 buildings and public places, was established in 1989. I had the opportunity to visit the city in 1995 and viewed the lighting strategy from which the  Lighting Urban Communities International organization, (LUCI), was born.

Fête des Lumières spans four days in early December each year. The celebration has grown into an international event, with light shows and exhibitions by international artists and students. Attendance is said to reach four-million visitors annually. Each year a color theme is implemented with filters on the streetlights. In 2010 the streets of Lyon were bathed in hues of magenta-pink.

Now, as I write these words of recollection, my internal vision of the city of  Lyon is drenched in this luscious color.

Leni Schwendinger's NightSeeing™ / Livable Cities, Lyon

For a week crowds wander the streets in families, pairs, groups chatting, and light-gazing as they drink the traditional beverage, mulled wine,
sold street-side .  As my companion observed, “I have never seen such crowds— except for sports or politics and here they all turn out for culture”.

NightSeeing™

The first step in the coordination of a NightSeeing™ LightWalk is the planning of the route.  Generally booked by a conference or educational organization,  in preparation, I dialogue with the local representative to devise a diverse, architecturally stimulating 10-minute itinerary— which becomes an hour-long when implemented on the Walk.  For the Fête des Lumières, planning counterparts were  Lyonnaise tour guide, Anne Prost, and adviser Alexandre Columbani, general manager of LUCI.

The festival has a sophisticated on-line presence with beautiful interactive maps and installation photographs. For weeks, I studied this swirl-framed program online program of the Fête.

This historic city is dense with alleys and pedestrian passageways paved with stones and lined with facades spanning the centuries. Selecting the route in a city founded by Romans in 43 BC — and now lauded for innovation is daunting! One challenge was to the LightWalk participants from the dense crowds; another was to include just a few spectacles. After all, an important concept for my LightWalk is the “normal”, typical nighttime light of the city.

Leni Schwendinger's NightSeeing™ / Livable Cities, Lyon

Highlights of the Route

I developed a tour starting at the Hotel De Ville (the local government seat). Alexandre, an inhabitant of Lyon, introduced me to the area known as Croix-Rousse, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in which silk weaving industry was introduced in 1536.   This industry shaped unique architectural forms, such as the traboules—public spiral staircases. Protesting the introduction of new technology that would cause unemployment, throughout the 19th century, the silk workers known as canuts  revolted and rioted.

Our guide Anne enumerated the local lore of the canuts and the  silk suppliers to all of us—describing 16th through 19th-century psycho-geographical atmospheres and other facts that defined this district.

Leni Schwendinger's NightSeeing™ / Livable Cities, Lyon

In the cold magenta night we gathered at the Roman Arena with its spiral of candles. We traversed up and down Lyon’s ubiquitous public  stairs to see illuminated fabric sculptures and stood on the edge of the public square viewing translucent structures back-lit with geometric projections; and gazed upon varied and colorful lit-up baubles suspended from trees, facades and fences.  More traditionally illuminated cathedrals and facades were also dotted along the route.   Between spectacles I indulged on of my professional and private passions—pointing out the pedestrian signals—civic “jewelry“ of the city night—brightly blinking, their pink and black grille-work shadows intermingling with the people who cast them, as well as the lighted shop windows and many other “found”, vernacular effects of the urban nighttime environment.

The Panel Debate

The panel  was located at the Philips Outdoor Lighting Application Centre in La Valbonne near Lyon. Starting of the day-long event, panelists Allan Stewart, Marco Bevolo, Dominique Mamcarz, Martin Lupton, Ken MacKenzie, Nicholas You, Rogier van der Heide, myself and Richard Griffiths, moderator, assembled in an intimate setting with reporters from media organizations from all over the world — including journalists from China, France, Italy, Korea, Singapore, Latvia, Spain and the United Kingdom —  in the varied fields of business, technology and planning.

Leni Schwendinger's NightSeeing™ / Livable Cities, Lyon

Panelists Marco Bevolo and Nicholas You

Per Richard Griffiths, the panel discussion focused on:

Urban Well-being – enhancing health and well-being through the provision of safer streets, Branding & Identity – driving tourism, commercial growth, inward investment and civic pride, Urbanization – the challenges of urban population growth, including urban clutter, balance with nature and energy efficiency.

Nicholas described a moment in his childhood when he had to use the illumination of the street light to do his homework.  Marco Bevolo stated that research is imperative to designed city strategies, and Allan Stewart (City Councilor in Glasgow) discussed “the power of light to unite people.”   My colleague, lighting designer, Martin Lupton discussed our discipline, observing that, “Lighting is engaging. It is a social medium and it has the power to transform lives.”

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In her follow-up article, What Makes a Great City, (Malaysia) Wan-Pen, a journalist-participant, discusses the panel as it relates to Asian cities;

“Haphazard planning, population growth and urban sprawl are taking a toll. If we continue at this rate, Asian cities would go the route of “maximum cities” where 20 million inhabitants (soon, this is the new “normal”) will fight for space to live, work and play.

“Light is playful. It has a sense of magic and people are attracted to light,” says Schwendinger, a New York-based lighting designer. Her forte is to use light in an imaginative and fun way that it serves as a catalyst to bring people together. “You can’t help it, you go towards the light.”

The message from the Lyon forum is simple: The only limit to creating great cities is your imagination. City planners, urban dwellers and governments all have a role to play by ensuring the development, projects and visions reflect exactly what the inhabitants want.

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All photos  ©Xavier BOYMOND

Link to Fête des Lumières; a NightSeeing™ LightWalk in 14th Century Lyon, Part 1

For other NightSeeing™ resources and posts on this blog – click here

For essays on public lighting theory – here.

For relevant videos Dwell Magazine, Night City with Leni Schwendinger

SHADINGS is a hybrid work by composer Laura Elise Schwendinger

and lighting artist Leni Schwendinger.

Playing It UNsafe Concert Friday, March 4 2011 at 7:30pm

View the video! Playing it UNsafe Composer Journeys: The Schwendingers

In 1993 Leni undertook a photographic research project in Japan, an exploration of ephemeral architecture and the “kare sansui”; Buddhist dry landscapes.  Her medium, the short-lived black-and-white Polaroid transparency film, enhances the fragile atmosphere of her subject – ritual gardens and ever-changing earthen construction sites. The photographic slides were processed on the spot in Japan by a hand-powered, mechanical-cranked processing machine.

Leni Schwendinger’s image montage, inspired her cousin, Laura Schwendinger, to create an orchestral world of shimmery sounds and intense dramatic orchestral shadings for the American Composers Orchestra. The orchestral colors reflect the duality present in Leni’s images. These include rich pearlescent tones, in shades of grey, found in the scenes of the serene Japanese rock gardens, as well as those found in darker more intense industrial images taken at nearby building sites. The duality presented in the projections, are reflected in the musical score’s two personas.

These seemingly different qualities are intrinsically connected by the visual relationship of the two visual worlds. The tones of light, dark, grey and shadow, as well as the shapes present in both worlds, those of the gardens and of the industrial scenes, seem to carry the same mystery of geometry and space. In SHADINGS, Laura Schwendinger explores these connections and duality in an orchestral soundscape that attempts to amplify the beauty and wonder of Leni’s delicate and sensitive eye.

The music will be completed only in the presence of the lighting and vice-versa. Unlike other recent multidisciplinary forays, this work seeks to be a true collaboration between these two artistic mediums, offering a door to a possible synesthetic connection between the two approaches, combining two different levels of perception – aural and visual.

The book reception at Center for Architecture on Thursday evening was sensational!

The line crawled out the door half the block down La Guardia Place… the seating once inside filled three spaces – the multipurpose hall downstairs, the mezzanine, and the library. All had projected video of the presentation held on the ground floor. The murmur and the luminaries present heightened the excitement of the launch of this three-year book project.

Produced in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, “High Performance Landscape Guidelines: 21st Century Parks for NYC” is the first document of its kind in the nation: a comprehensive, municipal design primer for sustainable parks and open space. The Guidelines cover every aspect of creating sustainable parks, from design to construction to maintenance, and feature hundreds of best practices for managing soil, water, and vegetation resources, as well as dozens of full-color photos and illustrations. — Design Trust for Public Spaces website

Luminaries; Nancy Owens, Charles McKinney, Deborah Marton, Nette Compton

Adrian Benepe, Commissioner of New York City Department of Parks and Recreation welcomed the audience and Deborah Marton, Executive Director of Design Trust, gave an impassioned speech about the process to institutionalize  sustainable standards for park design. She stated that the deeply comprehensive publication is the first of it’s kind.  This is the third set of guidelines from Design Trust.  The others are High Performance Building Guidelines (1999) and High Performance Infrastructure Guidelines (2005).  The primary authors are five Design Trust fellows – a team that includes landscape architects, a sustainability expert, and a water resource engineer: Michele Adams, Steven Caputo, Jeannette Compton, Tavis Dockwiller and Andrew Lavallee.

Charles McKinney,  Principal Urban Designer at Parks, a new role at Parks as of last year, was a moving force and champion of the project – with its 50 collaborators including landscape architecture firms, the NYC Parks Dept and Mayor’s office.  There were 40 peer reviewers.

David Bragdon from the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability discussed PlaNYC and how an interdisciplinary approach is the most sustainable.  His plea for high-performance for all – humans and other species – was eye-opening.

Jeannette Compton, a Senior Project Manager with Parks, was a primary author.  She reviewed the table of contents of this beautifully and colorfully designed book of 279 pages.  The chapters are based on linear process of design with varied access points.

Table of Contents

Part I: Context
Part II: Site Assessment
• Site Inventory & Analysis
• Site Types
Part III: Best Practices in Site Process
• Design
• Construction
• Maintenance & Operations
Part IV: Best Practices in Site Systems
• Soils
• Water
• Vegetation
Part V: Case Studies
Part VI: Next Steps

A pdf download is available at Design Trust.

Jeremy Barring is the Parks Department’s Capital Projects arborist. This is another new job at Parks, which started in 2008.
He emphasized that;

Trees provide more benefits as they get bigger. And that trees come up in almost every section of the book!

Stephen Koren, a landscape architect with the Parks Department authored the playground site type.  He reviewed a playground that had not been improved in 60 years and discussed the ways that each material was “chosen through a filter of sustainability”.

Nancy Owens, landscape architect, principal of her own firm, discussed the development of Fort Totten in Bayside, Queens, as a case study for sustainable design (althougth the book was not available when the park was designed).  This 149-acre peninsula includes Civil War–era fortifications, and the eight-acre section that was designed by Nancy Owens’ firm, North Park, was former WWI military site.  The military buildings were demolished to create a beautiful park.  When the book was published Nancy highlighted items in book that were relevant – from my view of the screen it looked like more than 3/4s of the checklist had been used for the Fort Totten project.  She feels that the book is scalable and will be very  useful for all park designers.
She stated that,

The natural history of the site is important, not just military history.

When the first trees were planted the ambient sound changed… with birds & butterflies – almost a miracle within a day.

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The book is hardback and available at Amazon.