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

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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

Guangzhou (广州市区)

The Guangzhou International Lighting Exhibition and its concurrent Guangzhou International Lighting Technology Symposium was held on 9 – 12 June 2009. Organized by the lighting-focused event planners Messe Frankfurt with Chinese partner YangGuang Lighting Service (YGLS). This trade fair is one of the Messe’s seven lighting, electrical and building technology fairs held around the world, including Frankfurt, Middle East and Buenos Aires.

Pazhou Complex

The show and symposium were staged in the undulating, metallic buildings of the China Import and Export Fair Pazhou Complex (中国进出口商品交易会琶洲展馆), built in 2002. The fairground was designed by the Japanese architectural firm of AXS SAWTO and developed by the Architectural Design and Research Institute of South China University of Technology.

The Complex is especially known for the Canton Fair (Chinese Import & Export Fair) which is held twice a year in Spring and Autumn since it was inaugurated in the Spring of 1957. Guangzhou, the center of the Pearl River Delta manufacturing powerhouse and close to provincial exporting bases. After 52 years’ development… the Canton Fair has become a comprehensive international trade event in China with the longest history, the largest scale, the most complete exhibit variety, the broadest distribution of buyers, the biggest buyer attendance, and the greatest business turnover, and the soundest credibility, enjoying the reputation of “China’s No.1 Fair”.

— Wang Junwen; Secretary General of China Import and Export Fair & Director General of China Foreign Trade Centre

My Talk: Color and Light: Humanizing the Urban Nighttime Environment

I was invited to speak in the Sustainable Development in the Lighting Industry; LED track. Dr. Vincent Chen, Senior Application Engineer from OSRAM China Lighting moderated.

Slide Show

The subject: The use of colored light in the urban environment has exploded. Now with LED (Light Emitting Diodes) the lighting designers’ paint-box has been redefined. Colored light is not only more possible, but is energy-conscious and sustainable in terms of maintenance. However, by what measure can designers, agencies and owners rate the applicability of colored light in the open, public environment. In this talk I reviewed the artistic use of color, and proposed a system of judging good designs with using color theory, case studies and a check-list. 

Please view and print my handout here (click on this link).

China_lecture_collage02

The lecture was well attended. The audience was comprised of lighting designers and engineers, architects, manufacturers, artists and students. The Q&A was lively.  My favorite question — from a student — passionately delivered — concerned China’s current preoccupation with “too much color” and “too much animation”.

Afterward, I joined “From Inspiration to Implementation” a panel of  owners (the government), engineers, and architects…and two lighting designers, including myself. Subjects ranged from questions of creativity through issues of implementation–addressed by each and every participant from varied vantage points. Here I learned that in China a project life span of two to five years is a normal expectation for buildings, or at least for the lighting of buildings in China and so, the expectation of longevity and quality are not the same as in the US – which hovers in the 25-year duration.

people01

As an aspiring linguist, it is fascinating to think in a new language — structure and syntax reveals the inner spirit of culture…however my grasp of Mandarin has yet to be realized.  Thanks to interpreter Jasmine Shi, I was able to understand normal course of conversations, and as well as probing mysterious-seeming motivations and activities. I was fortunate to meet lighting design colleague from Taiwan, Ta-Wei Lin. He has a great sense of humor (a prerequisite for good lighting designers) and it was a pleasure to speak in rapid English over biscuits and team upstairs in the conference mezzanine.

Lighting fixture rarities

Lighting fixture rarities

Time was short between lecture and panel. Jasmine and I rushed through the trade show floor. The products I saw were highly decorative – sparkle ruled the day at this trade show. A beginner in the Chinese market it was hard to understand who the important players are.

Pearl River Cruise

An evening cruise on the Pearl River (珠江) – the third longest in China revealed the student’s issue of “too much” color and animation. Blocky buildings were dressed in gaudy garments of light – dancing, blinking and morphing. A laser effect swept the river. The shore was edged in bright blue light.

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Part 2Hangzhou to Suzhou: From the Elegant (Grand Canal) to the Sublime (Lion Forest Garden)

Part 3 – Shanghai: Simultaneously Chrysalis and Butterfly

Part 4Shanghai Post-Script: Ancient Town Park