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 

Municipal Art Society’s “Jane’s Walk” West Village, May 5th 2012,was fun and invigorating. 

I was the “official” photographer and took my mission seriously, running ahead, falling back, click click click.  Get the shot.

Joan Schechter  is a pro tour-guide and she covered the architecture and history of the Village by the lights of Jane Jacob.

Jane's Walk 2012 - Photos by Leni Schwendinger

How did it happen that Michael Levine, Charlie Anderson and I veered of the path of the official walk and viola! began a sensational wander?

It started outside of 555 Hudson – do you recognize that address? It was Jane’s last home in the US, before leaving for Canada as a protest of the Vietnam War, and a way to save her son from the draft.  The kind current owner showed up at the front door – perhaps she heard the sounds of our group of 75 determined tour-ists?

At Janes house - Photos by Leni Schwendinger

As the group moved on to the wonders of West Village, some of us stayed on to discuss the building and her apartment.  Michael had visited Ms. Jacobs in 1967 and wondered about details: were the rooms still configured the way they had been, what about the roof garden?  Soon, the house owner offered a home view. Up we tramped on the narrow creaky staircase.

Janes house - Photos by Leni Schwendinger

Oohs and aahs, the original planked floor, the window where Jane made her observations, Micheal’s memory of cockroaches that lived there too (whose apartment did not have roaches at that time?).  All were discussed and photographed.

Jane's window - Photos by Leni Schwendinger

By the time we reached the sidewalk again our tour group had gone.  We tried to guess their track, and turned up Bleecker.  There, we discussed the merits of “obstructions” (the remnants of slate-sidewalk past), embedded relics of railings and tiny trap doors for coal.

Bleecker Street - looking down, Photos by Leni Schwendinger

We bemoaned the endangered species of Village life…

Endangered species of Village life - Photos by Leni Schwendinger

Our conversation unqualifiedly animated to find like-minds appreciative of the “nature” of urban accretion, we retired to Cafe Angelique for refreshment.

Cafe Angelique, photo by Leni Schwendinger

What was learned?  Urban planner Michael conflated my interest in Found Lighting to Found Seating. Architect Charlie shared his quest to walk all over the city at all hours of the night shooting photos of doors, building materials, people of all stripes and his upcoming blog on the same.

Found Seating - Photos by Leni Schwenidnger (and Michael Levine)

Seating? Photos by Leni Schwendinger

An all together satisfying New York City, nay, Manhattan experience, was had by all.

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The walk according to the New York Times: “One Jane’s Walk tour starts at the Christopher Street subway station in Greenwich Village, where Jacobs arrived after moving from Scranton, Pa., to pursue a writing career. Another sticks to Roosevelt Island, focusing on how it evolved from a purely institutional setting of mostly almshouses and hospitals into a planned residential community. You can explore the Rockaways in Queens or visit “Main Street U.S.A.” in Tottenville, on Staten Island.”

The listing by sponsor Municipal Art Society:

Jane Jacobs’ West Village

Time: 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Walk Host: Joan Schechter

Meeting Place: 7th Ave. South & Christopher St., in front of Village Cigar

Accessibility: Partially Accessible – curbs, uneven terrain, busy sidewalks

Description: In 1934, 18 year old Jane Jacobs arrived in NYC from Scranton to pursue a writing career. While exploring her new environs, she found herself at Christopher Street Station, and immediately began her love affair with Greenwich Village. Our tour will include the history of the area, woven with stories and relevant sights of Jane’s epic battles with city bureaucracy and the powerful Robert Moses to preserve her beloved Village. Walkers will visit Hudson Street, where she lived for 20 years, observing its daily ‘intricate sidewalk ballet’ that was the inspiration for her acclaimed first book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, as well as see several other historic sites that would not exist today if it were not for her successful grassroots activism.

Selected dérive posts in this blog:

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 (July 2009)

Dérive, a Cultural Week in Manhattan (May 2009)

*dérive

One of the basic situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll. In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones. — Theory of the Dérive by Guy-Ernest Debord

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?

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


Comment> A renowned lighting designer takes a walk in the dark in search of illumination

(Full text and images link)

In October 2010 my article on the NightSeeing™ program appeared in the Architect’s Newspaper.  It was a welcome opportunity to describe the development of the program, current events and future aspirations.

Leni Schwendinger leads a LightWalk in Washington DC

Here, some excerpts:

Savor the word “light” and the interior landscape of language evokes images of atmospheric effects—mysterious, picturesque, sublime.

What is the NightSeeing™ program?

Conceptually, NightSeeing is an itinerary of group exploration and discovery, a curriculum designed for the general public and those in the architectural and planning professions. Presenting the nocturnal city of light, NightSeeing is a real-time travelogue through the culture of urban lighting in public spaces to convey recognition of one’s own environment of the shadowed vistas that define our surroundings literally half the time, and yet are so familiar they are almost unseen.

The program can stand alone, or be presented by a conference, festival, or as an event for urban planners to enhance their public outreach efforts. It provides a context to examine and decode the shadows, emanations, and reflections that define our cities’ darkened hours. NightSeeing consists of several events: the LightTalk, a LightWalk, and a Light Planning Workshop.

Why is it important?

The issues and substance of public illumination increasingly influence the global language of urban design and urban experience. Through initiatives like NightSeeing, we can learn to see shadows in a whole different light.

Stories about NightSeeing™ past…

In the article I cover the NightSeeing™ LightWalks in Manhattan’s Little Italy/Chinatown, Bryant Park and in Washington D.C.

And coverage of upcoming events

The shifting interplay of nighttime dark and light makes every city a unique destination. For London’s Architecture Retail and Commercial Lighting Show on January 12, 2012, I look forward to mapping the Angel Islington district with the International Association of Lighting Designers to find the perfect route through preserved and chic-modern alleyways and unusual paved topographies. I spent time here in the 1970s frequenting Sadler Wells Theatre, the Angel’s Chapel Road second-hand market, and a particular pub with my crowd from the East End. For me, the LightWalk will be eye-opening to the pleasures of the crowds dining, walking from bus to subway to home, window shopping the antique shops, and experiencing evocations of Dickens’ darkened muddy passageways which have existed since the dawn of public lighting.

NightSeeing is a trademark program of Leni Schwendinger Light Projects LTD

Experience the urban  light… contact Leni (leni@lightprojectsltd.com) to book NightSeeing™ in your town or city with your organization, company,  friends and neighbors.

Are you a lighting designer or an artist?

Are you a theorist or practitioner?

These questions are bound to come up at the end of every lecture Q & A depending on my audience.

The answer is YES!

Theorist and practitioner

Art, design, theory and practice are intertwined in my world.  “Interdisciplinarianism” was coined in one of my first lectures Painting with Light in the early-1990’s – and I have continued to speak it and practice it. Additionally I have been developing public lighting theory through study, discussion, teaching, observation and practice (art and design production).

Observation includes dérive — through which I developed my unique brand of light walk with New School/Parsons School of Art architecture and lighting design students as well as the NightSeeing Map in 2006.  Discussion includes my global lectures where the Q & A are as important as the information that I impart.  And practice, also global, is comprised of the art installations and public lighting designs that my staff at Light Projects LTD and I have conceptualized and implemented for the past 17 years.

1. The first public lighting theory classifies lighting simply through its “sponsors”; public agencies, private owners, and found sources which are generally private, but unintentionally illuminate public space. To get the feel of the classifications here is a link to NIGHT CITY, a six minute movie, that guides the viewer through an after-dark experience throughout Greenwich Village, New York City, through close observation of public, private and found light sources. (Here, read about the making of the movie)

2.
The second, “‘Eight Shades of Night’ – Public Space during the Darkened Hours” is a framework that posits that each district within a city has identifiable activity shades, or zones, that in the future can be matched by adaptive public lighting.  The eight shades below typify a city like New York (similarly urbanized, western hemisphere, etc).

  1. Dusk; as the sun sets, depending on season, either the work day extends into the night, or daylight extends into the post work
  2. Happy hour; the social extension of the work day, decompression time
  3. Dining out; the date, the business meeting, the special event, window shopping, strolling
  4. Cultural events; the rush to the movies, theater, the ballet, concert or opera
  5. Night shift; cleaning crews, around-the-clock services, such as transit, and emergency repairs and services begin
  6. After hours; nightclubbing and after-hours clubs
  7. Early risers; the first shift arrives, outdoor markets set up, newspapers arrive
  8. Dawn; the commuters begin to arrive, power breakfast on Wall Street
[Copyright Leni Schwendinger 2009]
Lightmapping event November 2009

Eight-Shades-of-Night Light Walk; preparation and discussion

 

In November 2009, Professional Lighting Design Association held a program of Lightmapping in New York City.  Our team was led by urban designer Brian McGrath, architectural designer Ute Besenecker and me. This light walk was formulated to explore my  Eight-Shades-of-Night framework in the environs of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  Light changes and social activity throughout the night from dusk to dawn were documented by photography and light level readings. Here, our presentation, limited to ten images as per the Lightmapping guidelines, was selected from hundreds of photographs from the area. [click “full screen” mode for best viewing]

Lightmapping event November 2009

Eight-Shades-of-Night Light Walk; out on the street from dusk 'til dawn

 

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Read this debate published by Design Observer (links to Part 1 and Part 2) for more information about public lighting and  a forward-looking concept about community control of adaptive lighting.

Born to go to Mexico City, “La Capital”

LS-Aztec_inspired

Leni aspired to Mexicana status, here pictured in red dress with Aztec-inspired embroidery

Growing up in Los Angeles Spanish language study started in 5th grade.  We created our own Spanish books – mine was over-sized with a hard cover surfaced in canvas and splatter paint.  the binding was tied with leather thong.  In my imagination, Mexico was associated with music, rich colors, copper metal, a land of deserts, carvings and people who were so fascinating that they spoke a different language than me.  I had a wish to be Mexicana.  Above all I wanted to visit Mexico City.

So, when Jeffrey Miller, President of IALD texted a request from China about my interest in speaking on City Beautification in Mexico City I was thrilled!

This city of great layered history — and pre-history –was opened to me through the inimitable process of Dérive, with my constant companion and explorer, Mark Kramer.

Ciudad de México is inhabited by 8,836,045 inhabitants (2008 figure, Wikipedia) and Greater Mexico City has a population exceeding 19 million people, making it the second largest metropolitan area in the Americas and the third largest agglomeration in the world (Wikipedia).

IALD Conference on Sustainable Design at CIHAC

Convention Center

Expo CIHAC (Centro Impulsor de la Construccion y la Habitacion) was held on October 13-17th, 2009 at the Banamex Convention Center, Mexico City.  The Expo is the most important construction exhibition in Mexico. It gathers together project developers, contractors, consultants, engineers and building material suppliers.  This year CIHAC partnered with IALD (International Association of Lighting Designers) to hold a Conference on Sustainable Design.  Mexico’s IALD chapter sponsored the event.  It was a great opportunity to meet with my south-of-the-border colleagues.

The Banamex Convention Center is adjacent to the Americas Horse Racetrack.  Upon arrival we were mesmerized by the trotting horses out for practice.  I joined North American lighting design colleagues Charles Stone and  Mark Loeffler at the podium.

Charles discussion of White Light in Public Lighting was the perfect counterpoint to mine, with its focus on colored light.  Mark’s LEED and Lighting Design walked the audience through the ever more complex arena of “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” and how lighting applies. Mark also spoke on Daylighting Design.

CIHAC Speakers

My topic City Beautification, The Use of Color and Light posits that the use of colored light in the urban environment has exploded.  With the continued development of LED sources the lighting designers’ paintbox has been redefined and colored light is not only technically more possible than in the past, but the technologies are more energy-saving  and sustainable in terms of maintenance.  In this talk I address “by what measure can designers agencies and owners rate the applicability of colored light in the city environment?”  I review the artistic use of color and how to judge good design using color theory, case studies and a checklist. Here, a link to the hand out.

Walking the Streets

Walking is knowing a city…

View here a video of an animated Walk signal, and a great sense of Mexican traffic engineering humor, the Don’t Walk signal – with a person impatiently tapping his foot and consulting a wristwatch as the seconds tick by… to walk.

Envision the experience of the street through the moments that captured me and and in turn are captured by my camera.

Medians and Malls

streetscape

Paving Patterns, Shadows, Light and Textures

Paving

Street Corners

corner

Lighting Fixtures and Side Streets After-dark

mex_lighting

The Zócalo, la Plaza Suprema

Urban planners and designers are ever questing for the perfect recipe for town squares and plazas. Mexico City’s Zócalo — Plaza de la Constitución — is a prime reference – often mentioned in discussion of urban landscape design.

Zocalo_area

Streets branching off the Zocalo

At long last, I was able to visit — see, sense, feel — the genuine article — the authentic plaza, the Zócalo.  I was fascinated by the shared space of pedestrians, cars and bicycles and delivery carts.  Even on a weekday, the sidewalks and streets were packed.  “Shared streets” or “shared space” is a traffic engineering concept to remove separations between vehicles and pedestrians, and devices such as curbs, painted lines, signs and signals. The logic is that humans can be self regulated when forced to…an interesting civic pact.  It felt, here on the main square streets, that the concept of shared streets had not been enforced or planned but simply an authentic need had been fulfilled — that of a huge metropolis and its circulation evolving.

The Zócalo Edge; Metropolitan Cathedral

(Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de María)

Catedral Metropolitana

Because of its rich natural, archeological and architectural sites Mexico ranks within the top countries with the most UNESCO World Heritage sites.  As we walked toward the Zócalo through the busy foot traffic, jewelry and watch stores, cafes and restaurants and sidewalk markets our eyes gravitated naturally to the Metropolitan Cathedral which defines the north edge of the plaza.  Its ornate carvings of stone and wood bursts out of the facade beckoning visitors.

The Cathedral is the largest and oldest cathedral in the Americas. It is sited upon a sacred Aztec precinct near the Templo Mayor. The cathedral was built around a church that was constructed after the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán — the Aztec’s capital city (1573 to 1813) — and finally replaced the church. The Metropolitan was inspired by Spain’s Gothic cathedrals.  Its Baroque-style facade and 64-meter high Neoclassical-style towers contain 18 bells.

The ethereal glow of the ornate interior reveals five naves, several chapels, two impressive pipe organs, religious paintings and figurines.  The decor, whispered hush and flicker of candles conspire to create a time/space wonderment.

The Zócalo Edge; Templo Mayor

templo_mayor_plaque

“Next door” to the Cathedral is the Templo Mayor (Great Temple)

The Aztec legend describes the siting of the Temple as a fulfillment of a prophecy; where an eagle was seen perched on a cactus devouring a snake.

Construction began around 1325 AD and the Temple was continually enlarged over the next two centuries. A the time of the Spanish Conquest, in 1521, the temple was the center of this Tenochtitlan, with a population of 300,000.

The temple was nearly destroyed by the Spaniards after their conquest of Tenochtitlan.

The Templo Mayor excavation began 30 years ago after electrical tradesmen discovered the ruins.

Templo Mayor Mexico City

Two life-size clay figures from this trove represent the two faces of Aztec religion. A winged warrior, his head poking out from an eagle’s beak, with talons erupting from his knees, symbolizes life or the sun at dawn. Discovered only a decade ago, a grisly, six-foot-tall, clay figure – with his liver dangling beneath exposed ribs – represents death. Both were revered. The equal value of life and death explains “why the images of death are so strong,” says Felipe Solís, curator and the foremost authority on the Aztecs. “At Mexico City’s core beats an Aztec heart”  — Carol Strickland, Christian Science Monitor

Culture

Museo Nacional de Antropología

Museo de Anthropologica

On our way to the Museo de Anthropologica we strolled through Chapultepec Park.  A large scale photo exhibition mounted on an iron fence was composed of provocative images in billboard style.   The Museum, in mid-century modern/Mexican style, is stunning – the sleek lines interrupted by pattern and relief.  The first gallery was a contemporary take by several artists, on Mexico City and its populous.  Salvage materials, video, industrial homage and individual stories tell the life of the lesser known Mexicano.

The monumental collection is humbling.  Here, another chance to experience the ancient, this time through a curated collection.

culture

Left: billboard photo exhibit, Center: View of Chapultepec, Right: the Kahlo-Rivera House-Study

Lighting designer Gustavo Aviles, and his wife Magi, took us to dinner at the Colonia San Ángel Inn. After an evening of laughter and conversation they surprised us by pointing out the Kahlo/Rivera House-Study right across the street. The intense and creative couple — Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera — painted and housed their skull collection, as well as pre-Columbian art and Mexican crafts here.

The complex, two buildings connected by a bridge, is one the most important cultural landmarks of Mexico City. It was designed by Juan O’Gorman — an architect and painter.  It is a a merging of modern Mexican architecture and the International style.

The work caused a heated controversy in the 1930s by combining organic Mexican architecture and architectural murals with functionalism. So was the breaking of all the aesthetic paradigms of architecture in Mexico until then, to incorporate such blunt theories and thoughts as most avant-garde architects (as Le Corbusier) were developing on the European continent. Thoughts such as the rational use of materials, analysis of the functioning of ideal spaces and the adequacy of them to accommodate activities that took place within them – ideas that were radical at first but eventually were assimilated into the worldwide architectural community. These houses were made possible with minimum cost and effort.

Diego Rivera Studio Museum was established by presidential decree in 1981, opening its doors in 1986. In 1994, the INBA made the restoration and rehabilitation of houses a cultural heritage site of the nation, according to the decree published in the Diario Oficial on March 25, 1998. — Wikiarquitectura.com

I heartily recommend the movie Frida Kahlo directed by Julie Taymor for the flavor, color and sounds of a time in Mexico. And here a link of the real Frida and Diego.

La Capital is an exemplar of metropolitan life, and I like to think that my explorations have just begun.

Leni Schwendinger on camera

The urban nighttime environment is a dark canvas that humans have created – our previously daytime oriented “clocks” have been extended into the night.

Lighting designers work with architects, engineers and landscape architects to illuminate city structures – including buildings, bridges, parks – to make these places visible and safe to walk at night.

But, before that act of design, there should be an urban -planning and -design phase to determine how the public spaces of our cities will be lit.  This intersection of lighting and urban design interests me.  It is important to merge the ideas of urban design with public lighting design – taking the uses of buildings, pedestrian and transportation patterns into account.  Street-scape design — street alignments, curbs, medians and street furniture — sets the stage for public lighting. I am not just talking about utility lighting – I am looking at creative lighting that exposes the built environment at night – promoting legibility (“where am I”?) but also illumination practices that encourage public connections and conversations and more usage of our sidewalks and public life.

Public Lighting Video Storyboard

Urban designer Brian McGrath and I have developed classifications of light in the public realm.

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.

In addition to “designed” lighting, emergent — undesigned — systems develop as site-specific “unplanned” lighting.  Light added by users, inhabitants, building owners, etc. can help the designer understand the needs of a neighborhood by documenting the incidental additions of light.

In mid-October Light Projects will release a short video tape produced by TVGals – an on-the-street light walk – where I will reveal the concepts of public, private and found lighting in depth.

Washington Sq-newly renovated 2009

July 19 — Washington Square park

Walking home, in the warm breezes of this summer’s evening — Washington Square Park is alive! It seems more than one and one-half years that the variously located chain-link fences have kept us from crossing the square diagonally as required by Greenwich Village bohemian legacy.  And the fear, the anticipation that the beloved park would be spiffed up beyond recognition is finally quelled.  The fountain is huge, splashy, easily accessible, and centered on the Arch, allowing, as per NYC Parks and Recreation, “approximately 20 percent increase in unpaved green space”.  The stone benches are smooth and inviting.  And apparently we still have a rebuilt playground and dog runs and a performance space to look forward to.  Also,

… the final phase will include a new park house with a new comfort station for the public and space for the Parks maintenance staff.

Hopper/Kertész/Pène du Bois ("Chess Tables")

Hopper/Kertész/Pène du Bois ("Chess Tables")

The first fountain was built in 1852, the permanent arched monument to president Washington, in 1892.  Hard to believe that traffic once rolled through the park, and 20th century historical figures like Robert Moses and Jane Jacob’s clashed there.

I do romanticize about the Village I never knew – of ballads and beatniks in the early part of last century – every time I cross the park.

Matt Peterson, Shukov's Tower, Leni, Cassim Shepard and musician

Matt Peterson, Shukov's Tower, Leni, Cassim Shepard and musician

July 20 — Broadway Boogie Woogie: A City Unfinished at Brecht Forum

This post starts as a story about Facebook.  I “fanned” Urban Omnibus the online organ of Architectural League.  A film series, “Right to the City” caught my attention, so I disseminated the information to my Facebook friends and fans. Arriving super early, to get a front row seat, I had an opportunity to meet Matt Peterson, the Red Channels AV curator, himself.  While chatting on a bar stool (sorry, no refreshments) I recalled my high-school days in Berkeley – as founder of Solidarity Films, a film distribution company with offices on Channing Way just off Telegraph Ave.  The chutzpah! Young and dedicated to the idea of film as agent of change, my best friend and I rented out 16mm films to colleges and independent exhibitors – cleaning, tracking, repairing… and tried to build a mobile film truck for outdoor film showings.

Later, I encountered Cassim Shepard, the project director of Urban Omnibus. Mr. Shepard is involved in visual media, as well as the printed word, about architecture and urbanism.  In his preview, he enjoined the reader to attend the silent double feature – six shorts made from 1903-1948 on New York City and a 59 minute feature, Moscow – accompanied by the Citizens Ontological Music Agenda.

Anyone with an interest in how the analysis and representation of New York’s built environment has changed in the past century should not miss this three-part event…. and as a special treat, after taking in some beautiful New York city films, stay for part two to check out Kaufman’s 1927 film Moscow. – Cassim Shepard, Urban Omnibus

Moscow WAS as thrilling as the early NYC films, I translated what I could using my Berkeley High School Russian sounding out the Cyrillic.  The breathtaking moment was an ACTUAL SHOT of artist-engineer Shukov’s 1922-built radio tower. (Please see the spectacular 360-degree, interactive shot by Andrey Ilyin – from and onto the tower – here)

I look forward to seeing you at the August 3rd screening: Bridges and Tunnels: Art and Efficiency.

Chess NYC at Herald Square

Chess NYC at Herald Square

July 24 — Chess NYC at Herald Square (and mid-town’s Broadway pedestrianization)

I was walking at high velocity to my Tai Chi class, choosing to walk in the road – the new pedestrian haven of midtown Broadway, Manhattan.  To my right and left – home-grown sun umbrellas, pebbled-pavement and people sunning, talking, on the phone, reading – right in the center of Broadway! I walked by a giant chess set and checkerboard-festooned red tables [only just registering… hmm caught the traffic light]…. hmm – wasn’t that amazing?  A quick pirouette and I turned back to the spectacle of children and adults of ethnic and racial variety concentrating on chess games… right in the street.  I spoke to a man in charge; Mr. Ahmed.  He told me the story, New York City Chess  started on 112th and Broadway to enjoy chess, conversation, and community.  They formed an itinerant crew, setting up further and further down Broadway, then they got a grant… now there are eight on staff!

From there we began to organize and see an opportunity to bring people together through chess. We ran tournaments, offered lessons, and developed merchandise that represented our vision. Chess is a perfect combination of body, mind, and soul! People of all races, ages, genders, and social status can sit across the 64 squares and be perfect equals. This concept epitomizes life in New York City.  — from the Chess NYC website

Ahmed appeared to be writing and reading a foreign language dictionary.  When asked if he was studying, he explained, that he was “pursuing intellectual freedom”.  The street, chess and reading seem a perfect blend of subversive, an antidote to Sex in the City.
pedestrianization - Herald Square And Chess NYC would not have a prime middle-of-the-street venue, if it was not for 34th Street Partnership, Herald Square’s Business Improvement District, and New York City Department of Transportation‘s “Green Light for Midtown” plan, a pilot project to pedestrianize Broadway with the aim to improve midtown congestion and safety.

Dixon Place-walk

July 26 — John Kelly and Carol Lipnik, “The Escape Artist“, at Dixon Place

The rain was sheeting and spitting and the sun was glaring and lightning struck.  The Manhattanite’s summer dilemma, should we get tickets to a friend’s show – even if it is raining? Off to see The Escape Artist, Caravaggio meets Contemporary Art Song + Video.

“The Escape Artist” considers the parallels between the unbridled creative spirit of the urban artist of the 17th and 21st centuries. — from the program

The fully equipped 120-person theatre has been recently constructed.  The spaciousness, sound reinforcement and simple setting supported a mesmerizing performance.  Mr. Kelly, playing a cast of Carvaggio’s painterly subjects, interacted with himself on screen – the tilt of a head, a simple red folded wrap… these gestures sparked immediate recognition.

Sitting toward center, stage-right of the band, Ms. Lipnik, swayed with the music and vocalized in haunting harmonic phrases.

Kelly-Lipnik at Dixon Place

We took the subway, the B-train, to the show and walked home, in the shadowy rain and lightning.

*dérive

One of the basic situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll. In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones. — Theory of the Dérive by Guy-Ernest Debord

Meatpack-collage

May 17th – Meatpacking District Design ’09

An unusual breezy Sunday.  We met at the Standard Hotel. Quietly thrilling to walk a few blocks to the glass-slab building which reflects light from the Hudson River from two directions – slightly south and slightly north.  Double sunset.

The rendezvous was set but the itinerary was not.  How would we feel, in the adjacent neighborhood of cobbles and eviscerated butchershops – now overrun by design seekers enjoying the Department of Transportation’s new traffic/public space patterning?

After drinks in the lounge, our group of writers, artists and designers, animated, wobbled on.  Here, on “Gansevoort Plaza”, shipping containers showcasing Finnish Design, and along the street, welcoming high fashion shop-doors were open.

414 Gallery was a target, but was so crowded and jumbled that we opted for the drinks and continued on.  CORE 77 describes it,

…The space acts as a sort of gallery concentrator, gathering together recent work from IDEA/Brasil, IDSA New York members, Iceland Design Center, designboom, LO-TEK, and a number of other design and architecture studios.

Bustelo-coffee-in-cans, macerated fruit and vodka, sidecars… in the main, drinking and walking typified the halcyon day.

Pictured above, fig. 2 – the three writers; Andy Forell,  Lani Steinberg, Mark Kramer (author “Lee Lozano.net“)… and me. Fig 4 – Conceptual artist (and wearable art designer) Sakurako Shimizu… and me.

CaroleeMay 18 – Carolee Schneemann at St. Mark’s Church In-the-Bowery

Happily traipsing to St. Mark’s Church In-the-Bowery (MTA Bus M8) we anticipated a historic event, Mysteries of the Iconographies, a visual talk by the artist Carolee Schneemann, who, in her own words is “transforming the definition of art, especially discourse on the body, sexuality, and gender”. She asserted the connection of her youthful sketches to her adult art making– one’s “own iconographies”.  Stairs, sticks, lines and ropes… a humble discourse on childhood symbols and an eloquent tracing of her spectacular controversies.

A particularly poignant slide reminded us of St. Mark’s Church In-the-Bowery‘s deep arts history.  An image  from the late 60’s performance Water Light/Water Needle was projected, depicting the very same Parish Hall in which we were listening to the artist talk that evening.

Pictured above, projections from Schneemann’s lecture, Fig 1 – Interior Scroll, Fig 2 – Carolee speaking, Fig 3 – Water Light/Water Needle (1966).

Laura_collage

academy-collage

May 20 – American Academy of Arts and Letters

The big trip… take the A-train and then the C to 155th Street clutching our hard-copy invitations. On May 20th, the American Academy held it’s annual ceremony honor over 50 composers, artists, architects, and writers with cash awards ranging from $5,000 to $75,000.

My composer cousin Laura Elise Schwendinger was the recipient of the Goddard Lieberson fellowship for mid-career composers of exceptional gifts grant.  And we were there to  is to observe her acceptance – and to cheer as the institution  inducted nine members into the 250-person organization: artist Judy Pfaff and architect Tod Williams; writers T. Coraghessan Boyle, Jorie Graham, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Richard Price; composers Stephen Hartke, Frederic Rzewski, and Augusta Read Thomas.

After basking in the celebrity of intellectuals and artists, a group of us, now including sculptor Judy Fox and composer Sebastian Currier , descended the hill to somewhere around 130th Street and then the stone stair-wall that separates Riverside Drive from the Hudson’s shore to have dinner and share experiences of the day.

Pictured above, (right to left, top to bottom), Fig 1 – Laura, Fig 2 – the gate, Fig 3 – T.C. Boyle, Fig 4 and 6 – view of the ceremony from the balcony, and Fig 5 – Architect Stan Allen’s magnificent, multi-color site model.

publicolor_collage

May 22 – Publicolor Design Module

And to complete a week of intensive observation, reflection, revelry and camaraderie, I spoke before an audience of high-schoolers at Publicolor for the “Design Module” – a weekly session with designers describing their jobs.

Telling the story of my development as an artist and designer via the world of film, community activism and civic theatre, I realized how extraordinarily my life and practice has progressed — and struggled to describe my serendipitous and self-made opportunities to these disaffected teenage students.  The Color Club students asked me if I “liked my work” (“Yes”),  what my “favorite color” was (“Colors are site specific”) and we discussed the merits of light and shadow.

Pictured above, scenes from Stir, Splatter+ Roll Gala 2009 (Light Projects’ 10th year participating as Lighting Design consultant and mine; as team leader, for the Publicolor annual fundraiser).

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* dérive

One of the basic situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.

In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones. — Theory of the Dérive by Guy-Ernest Debord