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It was cold, it was dark…normal site study conditions.  

Arup staff and I braved the night with cameras, illuminance meters, laser measurement tools and paper plans to parse the high-pressure sodium nighttime environment. Here, an informal outcome, a 61-second video of the monumental Gowanus Expressway intersection, Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Marvel at the many illuminated phenomena – the blinks, the blurs, the limited color range…industrial building lantern effect, crosswalk retro-reflectivity, the glare of under-bridge fixtures and hazy baby-aspirin colored blanket of light…everywhere.

 

 

… and imagine, if you dare, the future of this site, a pilot project to allow humanity to explore, with pleasure, perhaps fascination, the monstrous forms above and street level destinations that may develop through the taming process of light, green infrastructure and urban design.

UNDER THE ELEVATED: PHASE II is a Design Trust initiative. The website spells out the background, process and profiles the three Fellows.

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!

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?

Public Art at Main Street Garden Park:

SPRING Lights Change to SUMMER

SpectraScape, the public art installation comprised of video bands of light that scroll across the green glass shelters at Main Street Garden Park will shift from the spring colors – hot pinks and white – to summer soft pink, lavender and yellows – on June 21, as the Summer Soltice transpires. On Tuesday evening viewers will see a dynamic media transmission echoing the summer landscape of the garden park.

Preliminary Video Color

DESIGN PROCESS: Preliminary Spring to Summer colors.

Here, a silent film of the design and construction process:  SpectraScape – an Interactive Artwork Under Construction.  The project progressed from construction to video and seasonal programming, shown in this short video: SpectraScape – On-site Programming. In the end, a crowded and joyful opening event included my talk on Dallas Main Street Garden Park – Ribbon Cutting.

Video Color Refinements

DESIGN PROCESS: Spring to Summer color refinements. Final video pixel proportions and color distinctions

SpectraScape, inspired by the colors of the seasonal foliage in Main Street Garden Park, interacts with park visitors when they enter the green glass shelters.  The horizontal scroll of color freezes as interior lights illuminate the shelter space when visitors step in.

The presentation of Spring in SpectraScape is best viewed just after dusk, which is clearly identified by the white color bands that identify the 30 minutes of sunset before resuming with the seasonal rhythmic flash of color that races across the top of the shelter.  This work inhabits the City’s first urban park landscape in central Dallas, Main Street Garden Park located between Commerce and Main and St. Paul and Harwood streets.

Leni Schwendinger

With over twenty years of work as both lighting designer and public artist, Leni has developed her lighting philosophy and in doing so, has refined the possibilities for light in the urban environment.  She has been the recipient of numerous professional awards, including several “Lumen” awards from the Illuminating Engineering Society, the Society for Environmental Graphic Design and the NYFA Fellowship for emerging and media art.

The City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA) works to enhance the vitality of the City and the quality of life for all Dallas citizens by creating an environment wherein arts and cultural organizations can thrive so that people of all ages can enjoy opportunities for creative expressions and the celebration of our community’s multicultural heritage. Our mission is to establish a cultural system that ensures that ALL Dallas citizens and visitors have an opportunity to experience the finest in arts and culture.  More information on the programs and services provided by the OCA can be found at www.dallasculture.org.

Links to other media about SpectraScape and the design process at Dallas Main Street Garden Park

Leni Schwendinger Public Art: SpectraScape, Dallas

SpectraScape, the Public Art installation comprised of video bands of light that scroll across the green glass shelters at Main Street Garden Park will shift from the fall  colors – rust and green – to winter on December 21, as the Autumnal Equinox transpires. On Tuesday evening viewers will see green and white tones of light that celebrate the sparse landscape of the garden park proclaiming the start of winter.

SpectraScape, inspired by the colors of the seasonal foliage in Main Street Garden Park, interacts with park visitors when they enter the green glass shelters.  The horizontal scroll of color freezes as interior lights illuminate the shelter space when visitors step in.

The presentation of Winter in SpectraScape is best viewed just after dusk, which is clearly identified by the white color bands that identify the 30 minutes of sunset before resuming with the seasonal rhythmic flash of color that races across the top of the shelter.  This work inhabits the City’s first urban park landscape in central Dallas, Main Street Garden Park located between Commerce and Main and St. Paul and Harwood streets.

Here is a silent movie link shot in 2009: SpectraScape – On-site Programming.

NightSeeing™ Washington D.C.
Can you find your way at night?

In the evening Washington D.C. NW is a monochromatic blend of light.

People are the action.

The shifting interplay of nighttime dark and light make every city a unique destination. Join acclaimed lighting artist and designer Leni Schwendinger and a group limited to 35 as she presents impromptu the D.C. nocturnal city of light, culminating at the ASLA Gala. This mistress of light sculpture and installation will decode the shadows, emanations, and reflections that define the nightscape, from shop silhouettes to the phantom photons of passing cars.

American Society of Landscape Architects’ Annual Meeting (2010)  invitation

Saturday, September 11 7:45–8:30 pm, LightWalk with Leni Schwendinger –Sold Out!

The NightSeeing™ LightWalk is conducted like a treasure hunt — a diverse group of participants searching for a fresh perception, a discovery of those lights and shadows, large and minute, to delight the mind and senses.  Or rephrased for planners, designers and landscape architects; an analysis of the character of lighting in any given place.

I began the tour with a quote from the artist/engineer/planner, Pierre Charles L’Enfant from September 11, 1789.  On that date he wrote to President George Washington “to solicit the favor of being Employed in the  Business” of designing the new capital city. His became a Baroque plan featuring open ceremonial spaces and oversized radial avenues with respect for the natural contours of the land.

With my intrepid group — landscape architects, designers and manufacturers from all over the country — I sought L’Enfant’s plan, lighting detail and filigree, and found a soft undifferentiated layer of light.

NightSeeing™ Washington D.C.

Public lighting — the lighting supplied by the municipality, business improvement district/CBD, utility, or institution in the United States — is generally “designed” by engineers and manufacturers.  An increasing trend, however, is to incorporate lighting designers onto streetscape design and engineering teams to revitalize districts, neighborhoods and communities.

City designs and plans, are strictly limited by regulations that are based on the primacy of the automobile (e.g. street lighting) and reducing risk , recommended brightness levels, maintenance and stocking issues, and the light pole and luminaire styles that manufacturers are currently marketing.

On the positive side, this is the light that we can depend on – the base lighting that allows residents, workers and visitors to feel comfortable sallying forth into the city’s night.   Public lighting is the threshold of light, upon which private and found lighting are layered.

NightSeeing™ Map Washington D.C.

NightSeeing™ Map Washington D.C.

We started our journey focused on the Historical Society’s colonnaded edifice floodlighting.  A traditional, uplighting method of  frontal illumination, this approach results in soft ambient glow.  Appropriate for classical buildings, and inexpensive.

Onward past rows of historicist streetlight lanterns.  Here, an effort could be made to differentiate street types and districts with varied types of poles, oh! a relief, the Chinatown lanterns with their red posts and lantern tops.

NightSeeing™ Washington D.C.

We went through the Techworld canyon and surprisingly found the same decorative luminaires, rather than lighting fixture forms referencing forward-thinking technologies, although, there was one difference, induction lamps are being used — a source that is white light and has a long lamp life, requiring less maintenance.

Some of the endearing details that we did find included count-down Walk/Don’t Walk signals, bracketed facade down-lights (cheap and easy), LED media signs and the colorful floodlit Chinatown gate.

NightSeeing™ Washington D.C.

The most exciting part of the tour were the people on it and the acceptance of the D.C. residents and tourists milling about — the sidewalks were packed on 7th Street NW that evening.  The small groups of loungers on the National Museum of American Art grand stairs were curious about the LightWalk and we in turn, discovered them using steps for the appropriate evening purpose… sitting in the floodlight of the stair and colonnade, a staple of light and architecture in our nation’s capital.

Leni Schwendinger’s LightWalk drew our members through the shadows of DC’s urban streetscape, guided by the eye of an artist and technician to experience the magical interplay of darkness and light.

— Clark Ebbert, Education Program Manager, ASLA

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For more illumination, reading and pictures:

Public Lighting Theory – developing the nexus of lighting and urban design

Light Planning; Chinatown Little Italy Historic District

Accolades and Finales (and the Winter LightWalk)

Night City, The Movie

The Making of Night City

Free for New Yorkers of all ages:  A fantastical collision of Art and Science to hear gravity firsthand.

“Astronomy’s New Messengers: Listening to the Universe with Gravitational Waves”, an exhibition courtesy of the National Science Foundation and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration was on view June 2 through 6, 2010 .  This interpretive exhibition offered an up-close look at the work process of a dynamic group of over 800 physicists and astronomers worldwide who have joined together in the search for gravitational waves from the most violent astrophysical events in the Universe.

These scientific ideas are the basis for design throughout the exhibit from the undulating waveform shape of the space to the programming of the light sculpture and the graphic design.

The sound waves superimposed onto the rotating color palettes is revealed in the sculpture's 3D screen

LIGO, short for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, is a revolutionary new kind of telescope designed and built to observe, for the first time, ripples in the fabric of space-time caused by massive cosmic events. This amazing interactive exhibit featured a model interferometer with laser, a space-time curvature simulation, games to find the hidden gravitational wave in the static of the universe, even a mirror from the real LIGO. Overhead, Leni Schwendinger’s dazzling interactive light sculpture depicts the universe LIGO is trying to observe with a show of light and sound in real time.

Mock-up at the Light Projects Studio

“Astronomy’s New Messengers” is not only science.

The LIGO scientific endeavor is motivated by the same desire for exploration, the curiosity for the unknown and the awe of nature which motivated humankind throughout millennia of history. In this respect, science and art are two facets of the same human quest for beauty and truth”

explains Marco Cavaglia, Principal Investigator of Astronomy’ New Messengers and Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Mississippi.

Here, the start of installation in the Ballroom

Installation video on Light Project’s YouTube channel

To communicate the wonderment in our universe Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership and Leni Schwendinger Light Projects LTD, creatively re-interpreted the ideas behind the science of LIGO resulting in an immersive exhibit that encourages visitors in self-guided exploration.

Our goal and our hope is that the installation and the interactives faithfully convey the fascinating story of the quest to observe gravitational waves and what they will reveal to us about the history and nature of the universe.” relates Lee Skolnick, FAIA, Principal of LHSA+DP.

“We have attempted to interpret and evoke the spirit of these waves and the mystery of space-time; and embody them in the visitor experience.”

The exhibition’s design emphasizes the relationship between the light sculpture, the model interferometer acting as a real one, and the interaction of the visitor representing an event in the universe detected by the interferometer.

Light Projects was very excited by the opportunity to translate the search for gravity through our art medium, video and LEDS. Our light attracts people, young and old”, observes Leni Schwendinger.

Guests learn that gravity is a manifestation of the curvature of space-time and how LIGO scientists hope to see supernova explosions, black hole collisions, even the birth of the universe – the Big Bang – with a new set of eyes.

Left, Leni Schwendinger points out the finer details of interaction with young visitors, right, Marco Cavaligia explains the interferometer

Here, interactive designer, Ed Purver’s video documentation of the installation and visitors in action a must see!

All in all the exploration and blending of art and science was a tremendous experience for the designers which was passed along to a diverse audience, around 2,000 visitors, through light, color, and interactivity.