A research-based, prototype pilot, blossoms with citizen participation.

Skim to last image for 6-minute video

 

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Urban design often neglects the nocturnal city.

It is time to recognize the changing character of public space after sundown. The practice of Nighttime Design is a critical response to the after-dark experience, proposing new lighting solutions based on the in-depth study, for example, of local mobility, spatial elements, and activities. Nighttime Design positively impacts public health:  illuminated streets extend walking hours, increase the number of social encounters, and stimulate economic activity through after-dark cultural and retail offerings. It also improves general wellbeing and feelings of safety in the community through crime reduction.

Smart Everyday Nighttime Design an international, collaborative, research project led by Leni Schwendinger (with Arup), focused on innovative ways to improve the nighttime experience in Getsemaní, a UNESCO world-heritage district in Cartagena, Colombia undergoing rapid gentrification. While tourists are drawn to the area’s colorful authenticity, culture and nightlife, the neighborhood is becoming synonymous with deep inequality and division. As Schwendinger emphasizes, “Is it possible to build better communities with light?”

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Nighttime Design values local design solutions. In the case of the Cartagena-sited project, workshops and social/technical research led to the development of a universal LED lantern customized and localized for the area’s streets. The project team had two overall ambitions: the first was to conduct research and develop a sustainable Nighttime Design concept and methodology; the second was to improve community connections and galvanize local stakeholders through the use of private property for public lighting. During a community work session, in July 2016, operational 3-D lantern sketches were created to show how a neutral, modern object could be localized according to a specific urban environment – its culture, values, and symbols. With its blend of old and new components, the lantern prototype accentuated the character of Getsemaní. Its collaborative methodology brought together the interests of residential and commercial actors.IMG 3.jpeg

Following the workshop, a “pop-up” prototype pilot installation was conducted on a commercial street. The one-day workshop and pilot were a point of departure for addressing critical issues of social/urban policy. The workshop included community stakeholders including politicians, artists, designers, cultural organizations and, most importantly, local residents. Historical preservation, infrastructure, heritage, tourism, mobility and visual effect were all discussed and debated. The project’s findings were captured on video by Plane-Site, a global agency specializing in full-cycle content strategy. This short documentary illustrates the research process, workshop and resulting prototype pilot  – available to view in English and Spanish.

Beyond this, the future is glowing for Nighttime Design as an emerging discipline in
city-making around the globe.

Also available in Spanish

Further information Smart Everyday Nighttime Design offers new opportunities for improving economic conditions, public health, social life, security and safety in after-dark environments. The researchers are especially interested in the global south where emerging economies, urban after-dark enthusiasm, heat and time zone combine as a rich cultural area to study, test and implement innovative approaches. The team welcomes expressions of interest from urban-oriented organizations in regard to pilot-based research.

Contact: Research [at] nighttimedesign [dot] org

Credits: Don Slater, co-director, Configuring Light research group at the London School of Economics, Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano, Despacio: Carlos Pardo, iGuzzini, Findeter, Citelum, Arup: Joana Mendo, Christoph Gisel

All photos by Don Slater/Configuring Light

NightSeeing is a trademark of Leni Schwendinger

Nighttime Design_three pillars
Why Nighttime Design?

The night has the power to invoke a myriad of emotions — from fear to romance, melancholy to excitement. Whatever your feelings, the fact remains that the nighttime consists of half of our time on this earth, and that means half of our time in our cities as well. What can we do to ensure that our cities are truly taking advantage of their 24-hour needs? What does it mean to design for nighttime?

In this episode we talk with Leni Schwendinger, an expert on nighttime design and Director of NightSeeing (and so much more!), on the many types of light, what to do on a light walk, and how to take a holistic look at our cities’ daily light cycles.

The 54-minute podcast: Episode 36: Nighttime Design w/ Leni Schwendinger (link)

20170623 ReSITE-141317

Here, a six minute audio lesson on nighttime design urbanism: an interview by Monocle: The Urbanist, while at reSITE, in Prague, June 2017. “We can look back to Guy Debord… The freedom to wander… looking for the ambience. Nighttime design is the broader discipline where urban lighting leads the way…”

We caught up with Schwendinger, one of the world’s leading voices on the impact lighting can have in our cities. (link) 

Nighttime design and its concomitant Shades of Night analysis were born out of the NightSeeing™ Program

Charles Lane
Charles Lane, light and shadow observations

During the dark hours, a nexus of walking and observing living city streets  — at once intuitive and self activated — merged into a performative and philosophical practice.

2009: I have been testing “nighttime design” as a descriptor for a new urban illumination fortified by expertise and input by fellow urbanists, urban designers, social researchers, geographers, economic consultants, landscape architects, just to name a few. In Cities of Light the phrase was committed to print for the first time.

As you have read in this blog – urban nighttime is illuminated by public, private and found lighting.

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. 2009

The phenomenological – reflections and sparkle – glint as figures of found light against the background of mono-typical fields of sodium yellow streetlighting, and more recently as a blinkingly, blindingly white-grey saturation.

NightSeeing 82nd Street Partnership

82nd Street NightSeeing™/Envisioning 2012

How long does it take to synthesize disparate focuses — lighting, city life, community engagement — into a meaningful body of work? Three years, five years? A decade?

Smart Everyday Nighttime Design, international research accomplished with Arup, and partners such as London School of Economics, Despacio and iGuzzini, among others, was a recent culmination of the Light Projects’ 2012-2013 82nd Street Partnership Lighting Strategy: A Roadmap for Illumination and Community-Building.

Nighttime design research

Smart Everyday Nighttime Design, Cartagena

Envisioning the future of nighttime design.

What does your city – or neighborhood – need?

Near future vision: nighttime design teams composed of urbanists and city activators will form bespoke core consultant groups for specific urban regeneration projects. For example, those agencies, developers, associations revitalizing the nighttime economy in one district may need, along with urban lighting, public health and retail consultation.

Another neighborhood might benefit from urban and landscape designers, policy experts and sustainability consultants. Perhaps night visibility, traffic and pedestrian conflicts are a primary concern.  What about addressing the district’s upgrade to LED streetlighting along with a digital platform for seasonal lighting transformations, or for a cultural nighttime district where tourism and branding awareness is important…there is a team for that!

OPEN Sydney

Sydney nighttime strategy

 

 

 

Cities and districts may desire to create broad nighttime guidelines such as the excellent OPEN Sydney Strategy and Action Plan (pdf). It addresses nighttime economy, tourism, and diversity, among other important issues for international cities.

 

 

 

 

NightTube and Night-time commission

London’s Night Tube and Night Time initiative

 

 

 

Another current example is the concerted effort by the London Mayor’s office and Transport for London.  Transport rolled out the spectacular “Night Tube” campaign in August 2016, followed by the inauguration of a Night Time Commission which resides in the Mayor’s office.

 

 

Here, I have shared the process of envisioning a practice and the lurching tiny, and grand, steps that must be made in service of growth. A new understanding of illumination combined with urban design is becoming official, ensconced in city governance, which for theorists and practitioners alike establishes a context for the varied ways to improve lives — in our turbulently urbanizing world.

 

 

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?

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.

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

A discussion in two parts, with Kay Kallos, Dallas Public Art Program Manager, covers the inception and objectives of the integrated artwork at the newly opened Main Street Garden in Dallas.

Audio links

Interview Part 1

Artist Leni Schwendinger discusses her new work, SpectraScape, at the new Main Street Garden Park located at 1902 Main Street in downtown Dallas. SpectraScape is a site-specific artwork comprised of bands of light that scroll across the green glass study shelters at Main Street Garden Park.

Intreview Part 2

SpectraScape refers to the garden through the use of four seasonal color palettes derived from the seasonal park plantings—rust and gold for fall, pink, yellow and green for summer, green, blue, and white for winter and green and yellow for spring. Each season is proclaimed through rhythmic sequences of colors and tones that race across the tops of the study shelters.