Light Planning and Community Involvement

Official map of the Chinatown Little Italy Historic District boundaries

Official map of the Chinatown Little Italy Historic District boundaries

The Chinatown Little Italy Historic District of New York City was designated in September 2009 by the National Register of Historic Places which allows building owners and community applicants to apply for grants to support the architecture and places of historic significance.

Known for its intersection of Italian and Chinese immigrant cultures, the new historic neighborhood is roughly bounded by Worth St., Lafayette St., E. Houston St. and the Bowery.

Two Bridges Neighborhood Council sponsored the application.

I am working with the Two Bridges organization to support the community in their quest to invite visitors and locals to the district by marking the area with wayfinding and lighting.  Both neighborhoods, and the adjacent newly emerging Nolita, are filled with restaurants and night life that is not easy to find unless you know exactly where to go!

Chinatown: existing conditions

Chinatown: Existing conditions

Existing conditions: Little Italy

Little Italy: Existing conditions

Light Projects is developing charrette and brainstorming techniques so that community members are enabled to focus on the after-dark experience of their districts and neighborhoods.

Community learns about light planning

This workshop technique translates into a lighting master plan, lighting strategy and/or lighting guidelines.

Goals and benefits of city lighting programs and master plans

Leni Schwendinger Light Projects' synopsis of goals and benefits of city lighting programs

The workshop for the the Chinatown Little Italy Historic District lighting session which was held April 19, 2010 is an example of our participatory approach.  The results will be compiled into a map and report to come later.

WORKSHOP AGENDA

1. Introduction to Light Projects LTD – what is a lighting designer?

2. A slide presentation including

  • Night City”, a movie about light at night
  • Introduction to goals and benefits of lighting strategies
  • Lighting applications
  • Little Italy/Chinatown Existing Conditions
Lighting research into Eight Shades of Night

Previous all-night research on the St. Patrick's Old Cathedral (Little Italy) area

3. Discussion:Historic District: What are the highest priorities for lighting in our neighborhood?  What are our lighting principles?

5. Group and Paired Mapping Exercise

  • How do visitors and locals travel to destinations and what are those routes like at night?
  • Highlight Subway Stops
  • Highlight Gateways (Are evening gateways different?)
  • Locate Nighttime Activities (parks, etc.)
  • Description of routes including areas of concern/opportunities
Community workshop

Stakeholder group maps nighttime experience

Acknowledgment and thanks to Robert Weber, Two Bridges; convener of the workshop and Wylie Stecklow; Nolita Neighborhood Association. Robert and Wylie took photographs of the charrette which appear in this article.

Related Links

Public Lighting Video Shoot

Public Lighting Theory

Night City – a seven minute movie about the night and its light

Imagine a non-profit’s gala fundraiser where the well-dressed and a population of dedicated black youth mingle with designers and artists guiding team paintings!

Notable guests included Mayor Bloomberg, his companion Diana Taylor and Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden

This living picture is reenacted every year for the annual Publicolor Stir Splatter + Roll party, silent auction and dinner to raise money to “engage disaffected teenage students in their education by involving them in adding color to all the public spaces in their schools”.

Light Projects has been contributing to this worthy and inspiring non-profit event for the last 10 years by designing the lighting for the gala and leading a team painting process.

Please consider joining us next year, read up on the programs and results of the Publicolor organization.

Benefit chandeliers with construction string lights and hula hoops transform the gym into an intimate space for dining!

Special thanks Light Projects’ Kristi Kent for creating our painting design, Joseph Legros for coordinating and painting and Eric Chenault for lighting design support.  Also to Mark Barton, friend of Light Projects, for on-site lighting focus.

March 18th 2010:

Crains New York Business announced,

Skidmore Owings & Merrill selected to design first phase of work to convert Farley Post Office into a new train station.

The project received $83.3 million in funds from the federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act last month.

From the Regional Plan Association website; Moynihan Station Project Timeline

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan first articulated his vision for a great new Penn Station in the landmark Farley Post Office building in the early 1990s.

1993: Amtrak unveils architectural plans for overhauling the Farley Post Office building into a grand new Penn Station, an idea first advanced by then-Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The central court of the Farley building would be transformed into a new concourse for Amtrak intercity passengers. This plan is possible because the Postal Service has announced that it is moving mail-processing work out of that building.

November 20th 1993:

Brooklyn Academy of Music held their gala in the James A. Farley Post Office.  I was commissioned to create a decor of light on the exterior of the colonnaded, grand staircase entry of architects McKim Mead and White’s building.

Public Dramas/Passionate Correspondents

Picture Research for "Public Dramas/Passionate Correspondents"

Public Dramas/Passionate Correspondents, a projection sequence of more than thirty glass slides and Mylar paintings, encompassed the two-block long classical facade of Manhattan’s main post-office.

Public Dramas/Passionate Correspondents

"Public Dramas/Passionate Correspondents", two moments in the projection sequence

An exploration of the building and its role as a “civic stage”, the primary images were paintings of dense colorful theatre curtains – rising and falling, and expanding… ever opening… horizontally rotating around the columns and brushing the grand stair. Other images played in the six-minute montage; 30′ postal workers, a love letter, maps and mail sorting bags.

On that windy, bitter cold night gala attendees such as Leontyne Price, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, Tom Waits, Susan Sontag and Annie Leibovitz rushed up the Postal steps in the swirl of projected light.

Public Dramas/Passionate Correspondents

Hand-painted projections: theatre curtains and Bryant Park chairs

Little known colliding cultural facts appear on the surface of the grand building, for one, the inscription: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds is not an official motto of the U.S. Postal Service but an abbreviated quote from ancient Greek historian Herodotus describing Persian postal messengers. A Mr. Mitchell Kendal from McKim, Mead and White is said to have selected it for the NYC building.  The inscription itself was carved by Ira Schnapp;  stonecutter, engraver, and graphic designer from Austria who would later design logos and lettering at DC Comics!

An aficionado of the Manhattan landscape who has written for such diverse publications as Public Art Review and New York Magazine, Mark Kramer has observed, “With possible exception of the Park Service, the Post Office is for most Americans the most beneficent face of the Federal Government”.  The long lines of customers at holiday time, tax return deadlines, grant application due dates are still a zone of frenzied activity, but sadly, the once proud 24-hour Post Office has reduced its hours, Mon-Fri 7:00am-10:00pm; Sat 9:00am-9:00pm, and Sun 11:00am-7:00pm.  Electronic communications have replaced the pen, paper and envelope.

Original Penn Station

May 1962, Original Pennsylvania Station - across the Avenue from Farley Post office

From 1910 to 1961 the Post Office mirrored the imposing Pennsylvania Station on Eighth Avenue.  Now, the building is poised to shed its identity as the civic portal of written communication and fulfill the role of transportation hub.

The renderings of the “New Penn Station” are eloquent, modern and airy within the confines of the old Farley P.O.

The Public Dramas/Passionate Correspondents glass slides lie dormant in archival boxes, ready to adapt and re-install as a celebration of the refreshed civic facade and center of activity – Moynihan Station.

PUBLIC ART AT MAIN STREET GARDEN PARK

WINTER LIGHTS CHANGE TO SPRING


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 winter colors – green and white – to spring on March 20, as the Vernal Equinox transpires. On Saturday evening viewers will see pink tones of light that celebrate the spring landscape of the garden park proclaiming the end 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 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. The OCA is advised by an 18-member Cultural Affairs Commission appointed by the Dallas City Council. The OCA manages the city’s Cultural Contracts, Neighborhood Touring and Public Art Programs; oversees six cultural centers including the Bath House Cultural Center, Latino Cultural Center, Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, Oak Cliff Cultural Center (opening in 2010), and South Dallas Cultural Center; and operates the city’s classical music radio station, WRR101.1FM. More information on the programs and services provided by the OCA can be found at www.dallasculture.org.

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

Much has been written about the Atlantic Avenue tunnel since Bob Diamond rediscovered access through a manhole to the storied passageway in 1980. Diamond shares this body of knowledge on occasional tours of the tunnel, an exploration I was eager to take – a lighting designer underground for two hours without light, except for the jittering, swirling, white-to-blue light of portable flashlights.

For the photo essay, scroll down, to read the entire textual story, link to Urban Omnibus

Once on the concrete subway platform, intent on getting to Brooklyn on time, I lost all thoughts of the sidewalk, streets, buildings and people above.

Once on the concrete platform, intent on getting to Brooklyn on time, I lost all thoughts of the sidewalk, streets, buildings and people above.

We descended the narrow ladder through a metallic-rimmed manhole right in the middle of the street, almost in the crosswalk

We descended the narrow ladder through a metallic-rimmed manhole right in the middle of the street, almost in the crosswalk

The darkness begat dreaminess, with shadows on walls and ceiling and flashlight beams moving, searching for clues in the stone

Photos by flashlight

Bob regaled us with the amazing history of the tunnel: the transportation, geology, the methodological digging of seven months, the criminal, the politically unethical and mercenary, the gunfight, the pirates, the Smokey Hollow slum gangs, the mustard gas and five-foot rats — in short, the folklore and the facts.

The best part about this activity, I decided, would be experiencing a 165-year old excavation by the illumination of 70 flashlights.

The best part about this activity, I decided, would be experiencing a 165-year old excavation by the illumination of 70 flashlights.

The coppery, incandescent glow of the underground

Looking back from the monumental wall, the darkened passage is defined by glimmering archways, a coppery, incandescent glow shot onto the barrel vault by clear glass incandescent-filament bulbs – a cathedral of stone, brick and dirt.

I descended once again, this time to the A train platform, enjoying the solidity of the comparatively grand concrete and tiled stairway.

I returned to reality – the overground world of daylight and cold and then I descended once again, this time to the A train platform, enjoying the solidity of the comparatively grand concrete and tiled stairway.

As I walked home I found my view adjusted: manholes, drains, basements, vault covers — there is a world down there!

As I walked home I found my view adjusted: manholes, drains, basements, vault covers — there is a world down there!

The vertical layers of New York City arranged themselves in my mind’s eye – I will never take over- and underground passage for granted again.

Leni Schwendinger Light Projects’ recent projects win American Society of Landscape Architects awards.

In the General Design Category HtO Park in Toronto was Honored

“The landscape architect has helped Toronto reclaim its lakefront with strong, bold graphic moves. Summer is precious there and this project makes the most of it. It works just as well in the winter, it’s completely flexible.”

— 2009 Professional Awards Jury

The park is also iconic at night time due to its dramatic and colourful lighting scheme, which also ensures greater safety.

In the Analysis and Planning Category Trinity River Corridor Design Guidelines, Dallas, TX was graced with an Honor Award

“Beautiful forms and light handed. It held our attention. The diagrams convey the various layers of intervention and passive ecological processes. We really hope this is implemented.”

— 2009 Professional Awards Jury

Finale; Bryant Park Pond closing with Winter LightWalk

These were the final few days to visit New York City’s premier center city park in its festive decor – including our Jewel-Light Luminaire™ display on four towers surrounding the skating rink.  Bryant Park was also the location of my January 12 Winter LightWalk. e-Oculus covered the event and Contract Magazine was inspired to publish an interview.  And Night City, a LightWalk movie sets the night in motion.

Light Walk: sixty light afficiandos showed up on a cold, crisp evening. (Photos above right and left and below center and right; Robert Nadel)

The park is "moonlit" by floodlights from a neighboring building. The streetwall perspectives are sensational.

Features such as the Grill, fountain and light-edged trees enchant.

Carousel Photographs Robert Nadel

Way back in November I had an opportunity to speak at the opening celebration for Main Street Garden Park in Dallas.

Here, from our YouTube channel video from the ribbon cutting ceremony – at the podium, a short piece on the programming of  SpectraScape from October, and  SpectraScape. an interactive public artwork under construction from summer 2009.

For more information about the process of designing SpectraScape, a video artwork, please read more here.

Photos this page; Mark Strieter, Jeff Williams, and Mark Kramer