City Light Guide, a free mobile app by Philips has just been released.

Link to Android City Light Guide  &  Apple City Light Guide apps

Here, visitors and inhabitants of Barcelona, Berlin, London, New York, Paris, Rotterdam, Shanghai, Sydney and Tokyo are invited to follow routes — through  photographs and narrative — put together by lighting designers including Paula Rainha from Portugal, Thomas Wensma from Netherlands and myself.

This is a new approach to describing  international cities through lighting: written, photographed and mapped, or as the City Light Guide App describes;

Unlike any other guide, this will show you the location, give advice on how to get there and give you a history of some truly inspirational lighting productions…Featuring light installations, buildings and works of art…

My contribution New York City — a sliver of Manhattan– is an easy walking tour.  No fuss, no transportation.

Leni Schwendinger's Times Square at Night

A 360-degree view of Times Square and its private light phenomena and then on to Bryant Park.

  1.  Times Square: North end: TKTS, Buildings, billboards
  2.  Times Square: South end; Buildings, billboards
  3. View of One Bryant Park (Bank of America Tower)
  4. 42nd Street grand stair entrance to Bryant Park – Torchere, American Radiator Building
  5. Bryant Park -the northern path:
  6.  View east to the Chrysler Building/1930,
  7. South to the Bryant Park Hotel (American Radiator Building/1924)…
  8. … and Empire State Building/1931
  9. Look South – 42nd street view corridor.
  10. Bryant Park: East Allee: view southward to Bryant Park Hotel (American Radiator Building).
  11. Bryant Park: Le Carrousel
  12. Bryant Park: Fountain with view upwards to the…
  13. … Moonlights mounted on the 1095 Avenue of the Americas building, built for New York Telephone in 1974

Leni Schwendinger photo of Bryant Park

The app narrative is rigorously to the point and brief, here, some beloved outtakes:

New York City’s borough of Manhattan has been celebrated and embellished in the all of the arts, high and low – song, cinema and poetry. Consequently much of the world “knows” this uniquely dense metropolitan island. With a population of over 16-million within 59 sq. kilometres, historically, the city has attracted immigrants worldwide, leading to a richness of cultural diversity reflected in distinct neighbourhoods, cuisine and languages spoken. Prior to the appearance of the Dutch in 1609, “Manna-hata” was populated by the Lenape Indians. Since the late 19th century the Manhattan skyline’s iconic skyscrapers have shaped its identity. Today, the city is known for architecture, fashion, the arts, and financial activities. As the “city that never sleeps” it is a perfect candidate for a Light Guide.

Leni Schwendinger photo for City Light Guide

Times Square has been called the “crossroads of the world”. Perceptually there are now two crossroads within Times Square.  One, the actual crossover of Broadway and Seventh Avenue (between West 44th and West 45th Streets), by the diagonally crossing avenues, and, two, a folly, a grand stairway of glass at West 47th Street. The observation deck doubles as a rooftop for the TKTS discount Broadway theatre ticket booth. This landmark employs cutting-edge technology for lighting and mechanical systems (including geo-thermal heating). LED arrays concealed in the steps create a saturated unmistakable red glow. The grand “stairway to nowhere” is a huge success, fully occupied by New Yorkers and tourists alike.

Leni Schwendinger photo for City Light Guide

In 1686 the area which is now Bryant Park was designated as public space. Subsequently a graveyard (1823) then Reservoir Square (1847), it was renamed Bryant Park in 1884 for newspaper editor and abolitionist William Cullen Bryant. In 1899, the Reservoir structure was removed for the construction of the adjacent and underground New York Public Library. The park was re-designed in the 1930’s as a Great Depression public works project. In 1969, a famous rally was held as part of the nationwide Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, and then in the mid-seventies the park became derelict. In the 1980’s through advocacy and formation of a Business Improvement District the park was redesigned and renovated.

Leni Schwendinger photo

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Pivot to a recent think-tank experience with LAND Studio to discuss the visitor experience of this great industrial, mid-western city.

I arrived the evening before and commenced photographing – this is what I do!

My handy iPhone, iMovie editing-app called out: “try me“.

So I did.  And the next day eyes opened to the vernacular and artistic figures of light in Cleveland.

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For other cities’ subject videos, photos and text; see articles in this blog: CITIES!

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