We arrived on a cold, turbulently windy day.  Snug and dry in the Admiral Hotel a converted waterfront warehouse, we fell asleep to the hum of wind gusts whipping down The Sound (“Øresund”) –a strait between the Kattegat and the Baltic Sea.  The Admiral is a few minutes walk along the waterfront to new the Royal Playhouse – its interior filled with an atmosphere of starlight, and a view across the river to the dramatically illuminated Copenhagen Opera House.

By evening’s light a walk into the center city; I wondered at the darkness – the catenary lights suspended over every street – and rare punctuations of facade and sign lighting.

Center for LYS (Center for Light) invited me to speak that their annual Lighting Day.  This year it was held at the ultimately modern Black Diamond – a conference and cultural center annexed to the “old Copenhagen Main Library” built in 1906.

In the center of the vast, open lobby there are two conveyors that stretch between the old and the new buildings.

Watch my Conveyor movie on the Light Projects YouTUBE channel (click here).

The Danish Lighting Center was founded in 1948 with a mission to “advance knowledge and to disseminate information for the improvement of the lighted environment to the benefit of society”. They hold seminars and conferences, and produce a magazine, LYS. Director, Kenneth Munck and  Dorte Gram, an architect who coordinated my invitation to the event and writes for the LYS Magazine, were both wonderful hosts.

I joined a dynamic international group of lighting designers and engineers, including Roger Narboni from France.  My topic was “Reclaiming the Dark Side of Town, an Underpass becomes a Gateway”; a comprehensive discourse on the making of Triple Bridge Gateway at NYC’s Port Authority Bus Terminal.  This project took eight years to complete, with Light Projects role encompassing illumination, color palette and collaboration on the materials for four bus ramps in midtown Manhattan.

Thankfully during the stay it warmed up and I wandered through the city — night and day — observing a massive population of bicyclists and pedestrians co-existing with vehicular traffic, visiting philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s grave and exploring light and the streetscape.

Mark and I visited the Rundetaarn “Round Tower” – a 17th-century tower located in the central district.  It was built as an astronomical observatory and now houses a multi-use cultural space – which showcased an interesting art show of urban signs.

A steep winding corridor of smooth polished cobble stones, with sunken windows and daylight effects upon stucco, leads to a ladder to the exterior observatory level and an expansive panorama of rooftops and industrial structures beyond Copenhagen proper.  The 360-degree city view was exhilarating.

Copenhagen is a city of Scandinavian modern and Scandinavian medieval.

From the observatory to the airport, I am enthralled by this northern sensibility.

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Interested in other international visits and my public space and lighting observations?

Here are posts from 2009:

China

Mexico

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.

LightMappingNYC

LightMapping NYC is intended to provide the New York City lighting design community with a forum to consider the current, past and future conditions of their urban environment at night.  The multi-part program will include a walking tour of The High Line, interactive group walks in the city at night, and a group discussion / reception.  Attendees are encouraged to join multiple events, but are also welcome to choose what best fits their interest and schedule.

Lightwalk leader, Leni Schwendinger invites you to view NIGHT CITY, her video inspired by the Professional Lighting Designers’ Association LightMapping events. <Click to view Leni’s NIGHT CITY>

Group Session: Take The High Line

Wednesday 11 November, 6:00pm to 8:00pm

LightWalk Sessions

10 November thru 16 November, times and locations vary
Locations include: Times Square, Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Meatpacking District, Midtown West, Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO underpasses, and Virtual New York City.

Final Session: Presentations and Reception

Wednesday 18 November, 6:00pm to 9:00pm

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A component of the PLDA’s global Lightmapping project, LightMapping NYC is a joint program of the PLDA, DLFNY, and IESNY, and is sponsored by iGuzzini North America.  All events are free and open to the public!

Visit iesnyc.org/LightMappingNYCfor additional program information and to register for events.

Registration begins Friday 30 October!

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.

Leni Schwendinger Light Projects: Lighting Design

Leni Schwendinger Light Projects: Lighting Design

Submissions were accepted in seven categories. The competition collected a total of 117 entries, including 73 built projects, 24 unbuilt projects, master plans and visions, and twenty student projects.

Oddly, HTO Park was the only submission in “Large Places or Neighbourhood Designs”,  a design plan for a new or renovated large-scale area of the city.  Although the project was not a winning entry, we are very proud of it.

HTO Park Lighting

Here, Light Projects took a leap in specifying a high mast pole, in part to compete with the scale of the CN Tower — the world’s tallest building and free standing structure — standing in the background of the quayside park.

tb_0801

A Thousand Points on Light: Part I:

A dark-sky activist and a celebrated designer discuss the best (if not the brightest) ways to light the environment. By Karrie Jacobs — Susan Harder/International Dark-Sky Association; Leni Schwendinger

A Thousand Points on Light: Part II:

Is a well-lit neighborhood really safer? Is “pollution” the best way to describe excess light? The conversation continues between lighting designer Leni Schwendinger and dark-sky activist Susan Harder. By Karrie Jacobs

Downtown central Dallas is being recast.

spectrascape01

Traditionally, the city center has been associated with such iconic non-residential structures as Neiman-Marcus’ flagship store, the once- flamboyant Statler-Hilton building and the “Old City Hall” notorious for Jack Ruby’s slaying of Lee Harvey Oswald. DOWNTOWN DALLAS, a business improvement district, has been formed, and buildings heretofore industrial and commercial, such as the moderne-style Mercantile, formerly a bank building with radio transmitter and an illuminated clock tower, have been renovated for housing.

SpectraScape rendering and color palette

SpectraScape rendering and color palette

I worked closely with the park designer, Thomas Balsley, to develop the park’s lighting scheme so a subsequent public artwork commission was a natural progression which built on my understanding of the uses and types of park visitors.  University of North Texas’ law school is slated to move into the Old City Hall and I envisioned students with laptops and law books as primary park visitors.

Inverted “L” shaped green, glass shade-structures were designed by the architect to stand along the edge of Main Street. The structures are set off by a long triangle of seasonally planted, colorful striated gardens.  I thought of the structures “study carrels”, envisioning a light that might switch on when students or other visitor entered for reading during warm Texas evenings.

Using the color and stripes of the gardens as a launch point, I envisioned sleek lines of light integrated into the shelters’ edges.  Narrow bands of animated stripes, viewed in series will attract passersby.

Light Projects’ Design Manager, Ute Besenecker, has been instrumental throughout the design and implementation process and we have worked closely with interactive designer Ed Purver for programming.

Thus SpectraScape was conceptualized.

Here, a full sized mock up is presented on a warm evening, July 31, 2009. (See low-resolution movie)

Mock-up July 31, 2009

Winter (left) / Summer (center-left) / Autumn (center-right) / Downtown Dallas neighbors viewing

A bonus; the dynamic, luminous lines are visible day and night, adding a moth to flame effect from afternoon into the night.