Leni Schwendinger in Times Square

I was thrilled to receive a message from Dietrich Neumann, whose “Architecture of the Night” has inspired so many. He indicated that he had hoped to attend the Bryant Park, NYC LightWalk one year ago, but had been waylaid, and that now, very soon, he planned to bring his students to Times Square… and wouldn’t I take them on a LightWalk?

As serendipity would have it, I have been studying the Square, for the Light Projects role as lighting consultants for the Times Square Pedestrianization project on the Snohetta-led design team.

Times Square is only zone that I know of that has a minimum lighting/signage requirement which has resulted in the mandate of brighter is better.  Here are large scale panels of  light communicating in an ever-advancing, electronic graphic-design language.  The effect is awesome, that is, mesmerizing – a free drive-in movie on foot.

Some History

The billboards of  20th century Times Square were more dimensional, formed and handcrafted. Novelty is still an important part of the light signs, but the novelty resides in graphic code and the signs are flat or skinning the facades of buildings. This Artkraft Strauss “Vintage Times Square Signs” video from 1920’s to 1960’s illustrates the technological shifts in sign design.  And from the New York Times, 2006, the denouement; an auction of signs and design sketches; Neon Nostalgia From Times Square to Be Sold by Sign Maker.

“The days of the handcrafted neon spectacular are pretty much gone with the 20th century. We built all these one-of-a-kind, fantastic displays throughout the century, but now, in the 21st century, the medium is electronic: computer-controlled light-emitting diodes; big video screens; the big pictorials printed by giant drum printers on vinyl. The art — or craft or trade — of painting is gone.” — Tama Starr…the third generation of her family to run Artkraft Strauss.

The LightWalk

On November 20th a number of Professor Neumann’s students presented research into the history of Times Square lighting and architecture atop the tiered, red steps of TKTS/Duffy Square.

Then off we went, a group of about 20, into the thick crowds of a Saturday evening around 6:30 PM.  One of my first observations were the pigeons foraging at night – when had I last seen birds on the sidewalk in a city? This is definitely a side effect of vast quantities of light.

TimesSquare_reflections

Observations of light and shadow in Times Square fall into a few categories; panels of LED and bracketed sign light, reflections and “borrowed effects”, few private or darkened moments, and massive application of animated, colored light.  Private light is the largest contribution of brightness, street lighting is overshadowed (or over-brightened).

Advertising panelized light sources create dense blankets of light.  The key source of illumination are the billboards, both printed and LED direct-view.  The light is cast obliquely, as if side-lighting a dance performance on stage.

Reflections double the ad space in an eerie value-added move.  Reflections of pixelated light are re-pixelated by neighboring rows of windows.

Locating shadows: it is as if we, the visitors, are on-stage.  Cast shadows are noticeable on the ground plan and they are us… moving bodies.  Primary shadows (that which “stick” to the object and give it form) are found only by concentrated and tenacious observation.

Activities by street visitors include another media — cameras clicking, people posing, an altogether self reflective and reflexive, experience of light, commerce and ensuing happiness.

Times Square with Brown University Students

Quotable, in regards to the new, pedestrianized Times Square, now in conceptual design

Times Square, the globally recognized after-dark crossroads of the world will be completely transformed by our team. My ideas for the lighting of Times Square will take into account the walls of Times Square, the buildings that make the walls, their lighting, catalyzing the uses and activities of the new plaza, and integrating into our team’s approach to the architecture and landscape of tomorrow’s Times Square. – Leni Loves the Lights on the Great White Way, Architect’s Newspaper

We hope to redefine the role of light in the public space of Times Square for pedestrians. Times Square and the Great White Way, which is more Broadway and the theaters of Times Square, has a reputation for strolling. From the beginning of Times Square, there has been a legacy of social space and advertising. So, the rationale for Times Square has been continuous, but it’s also gotten overly-crowded. The differing objectives of cars and pedestrians has become rather adversarial.

Lighting has been mandated in Times Square. We have a minimum foot candle requirement. This is written as a regulatory guideline. It’s quite unusual — cities usually have maximum foot candle levels. We want pedestrians to stay and hang out, have fun. I hope that lighting will change from its role of entertaining and selling to enabling more down the earth activities we have yet to define. What kind of games can we play with light? What kinds of conversation areas can we create simply by defining boundaries with light? —Interview with Leni Schwendinger, Light Artist and Designer, American Society of Landscape Architects

Other Resources

Webcam at 43rd Street and Broadway

Here is another excellent resource, the book, “Times Square Spectacular; Lighting up Broadway“.

Dwell “As you Light It – Interview with Leni Schwendinger” (click through blog synopsis to video)

wwwNightSeeing.net is the website to follow global NightSeeing™ activities and to book a LightWalk

Light Projects' Illuminationo of Louisville 2nd Street Bridge and Streetscape2nd Street Transportation Project (Louisville, KY)

Less than one year after the contract was awarded, Light Projects’ illumination and color design for Louisville’s 2nd Street Bridge and Streetscape opened to celebrants on October 13, 2010.  Officially named 2nd Street Transportation Project, the landscape architect was Carman and engineers HDR.  Our client was Louisville’s Downtown Development Corporation (DDC).  DDC and Carman navigated complex approval processes which included federal government agencies, State and City Department of Transportation, and the local Waterfront Development Corporation, among others. The project was funded by the ARRA stimulus  program; which called for a fast track and economical design concept and solution.

The streetscape area was a service road combined with adjacent vacant land running along side the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge.  The cantilevered truss bridge, locally known as 2nd Street bridge, crosses the Ohio River between Kentucky and Indiana. The bridge is in the National Register of Historic Places.

Light Projects LTD Illumination Louisville 2nd Street before images

Cross streets Washington and Witherspoon join 2nd Street. A row of wooden buildings on Washington present their old timey “Whiskey Row” back doors to the street.  The buildings of Iron Quarter on Washington are being renovated into hotels, restaurants and bars.  When Light Projects arrived a generally disheveled, chipped and neglected sensibility pervaded.

Light Projects LTD Illumination Louisville 2nd Street bridge before images

We visited the site and participated in a design charrette in November 2009.The stakeholder workshop set the tone and direction for the design. Bright and welcoming were the keywords for lighting.

Light Projects LTD Illumination Louisville 2nd Street mockup-day

Mock-ups were held as the bridge was being painted

Now, the underside of the bridge is enhanced with a floating effect of cast light; outlining and illuminating the I-beam surfaces and textures. The duo-tone color scheme — red and gold — is balanced with the cream color of paint coating. The colors — bridge as canvas and the lighting — are based on a celebration of amber liquid bourbon and colors of sunset.

Light Projects LTD Illumination Louisville 2nd Street lighting images

In-progress photographs during the last night of programming

Light Projects selected energy-saving fluorescent tubes for the bridge lighting – simple, industrial lighting fixtures with a twist; the luminaires were filtered with colored glass and controlled by Digital Addressable Lighting Interface (DALI). DALI is an electronic network protocol that is generally used for lighting in buildings. We adapted it for our exterior use and complex lighting sequences.

Another technological innovation is a series of flasher beacons mounted on the face of the bridge. Whimsical sequences mark sunset and each hour afterward until 2:00 AM on weekends, and midnight during the week. These flashers are famous for lighting up the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Here, a little movie shot during programming that demonstrates the breathing sequence of color.

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

iGuzzini factory near Ancona, Italy

iGuzzini factory near Ancona, Italy

The iGuzzini lighting factory is set near the Adriatic sea, tucked into a composition of small villages, towns and pastures. 

In March, a group of North American lighting designers and representatives were hosted by iGuzzini and Sistemalux – for a week in Ancona and Roma, Italy.  Our hosts were generous, and the visit was high-spirited, informative and luscious. When we arrived at the factory our host declared,

Italians think sideways. We deviate from rationale thinking…

and went on to tell us about the newly designed LED street light: Archiled.

ENELEnel SpA, Italy’s largest utility has contracted with iGuzzini to develop optics for LED streetlights to replace metal halide, mercury vapor and high-pressure sodium -based street lighting. The engineers and designers developed a patented solution – which began with a curve calculation that would use least energy for innovative public lighting.

Archiled on display

Archiled on display

The cobrahead-style streetlight head contains an 84-watt array of LEDs (106-watts total) comparable to the light output of a 150 watt HID source.  Characteristics include Color Rendering Index (CRI) of 80, a patented thermal management system, an integrated fin design to optimize the thermal management, and replaceable ballast.

Archiled has four  default operating modes which reduce the power and the light output of the fittings according to the selected profiles. Besides the default operating modes, customized scenes and profiles can be programmed using a dedicated software.

The products will be on the worldwide market for 2010 and iGuzzini expects orders of 40,000 pieces per year.

Public lighting is increasingly recognized by new theory, science, practice and as a distinctive market.  The outdoor lighting fixture industry is in an overheated race to blend new street lighting fixtures with energy-saving and sustainable characteristics.

LED is the source of choice and the number of cities testing LED street lighting is multiplying.  ( See “More cities tap stimulus package for LED streetlights” USA Today March 3, 2009, “At least 30 cities have asked for more than $104 million in federal stimulus funds to help them make the change.”)

My company, Light Projects, is currently reviewing a new LED  streetlight for the municipality known as New York City.