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!

Leni Schwendinger on camera

The urban nighttime environment is a dark canvas that humans have created – our previously daytime oriented “clocks” have been extended into the night.

Lighting designers work with architects, engineers and landscape architects to illuminate city structures – including buildings, bridges, parks – to make these places visible and safe to walk at night.

But, before that act of design, there should be an urban -planning and -design phase to determine how the public spaces of our cities will be lit.  This intersection of lighting and urban design interests me.  It is important to merge the ideas of urban design with public lighting design – taking the uses of buildings, pedestrian and transportation patterns into account.  Street-scape design — street alignments, curbs, medians and street furniture — sets the stage for public lighting. I am not just talking about utility lighting – I am looking at creative lighting that exposes the built environment at night – promoting legibility (“where am I”?) but also illumination practices that encourage public connections and conversations and more usage of our sidewalks and public life.

Public Lighting Video Storyboard

Urban designer Brian McGrath and I have developed classifications of light in the public realm.

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.

In addition to “designed” lighting, emergent — undesigned — systems develop as site-specific “unplanned” lighting.  Light added by users, inhabitants, building owners, etc. can help the designer understand the needs of a neighborhood by documenting the incidental additions of light.

In mid-October Light Projects will release a short video tape produced by TVGals – an on-the-street light walk – where I will reveal the concepts of public, private and found lighting in depth.