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

Are you a lighting designer or an artist?

Are you a theorist or practitioner?

These questions are bound to come up at the end of every lecture Q & A depending on my audience.

The answer is YES!

Theorist and practitioner

Art, design, theory and practice are intertwined in my world.  “Interdisciplinarianism” was coined in one of my first lectures Painting with Light in the early-1990’s – and I have continued to speak it and practice it. Additionally I have been developing public lighting theory through study, discussion, teaching, observation and practice (art and design production).

Observation includes dérive — through which I developed my unique brand of light walk with New School/Parsons School of Art architecture and lighting design students as well as the NightSeeing Map in 2006.  Discussion includes my global lectures where the Q & A are as important as the information that I impart.  And practice, also global, is comprised of the art installations and public lighting designs that my staff at Light Projects LTD and I have conceptualized and implemented for the past 17 years.

1. The first public lighting theory classifies lighting simply through its “sponsors”; public agencies, private owners, and found sources which are generally private, but unintentionally illuminate public space. To get the feel of the classifications here is a link to NIGHT CITY, a six minute movie, that guides the viewer through an after-dark experience throughout Greenwich Village, New York City, through close observation of public, private and found light sources. (Here, read about the making of the movie)

2.
The second, “‘Eight Shades of Night’ – Public Space during the Darkened Hours” is a framework that posits that each district within a city has identifiable activity shades, or zones, that in the future can be matched by adaptive public lighting.  The eight shades below typify a city like New York (similarly urbanized, western hemisphere, etc).

  1. Dusk; as the sun sets, depending on season, either the work day extends into the night, or daylight extends into the post work
  2. Happy hour; the social extension of the work day, decompression time
  3. Dining out; the date, the business meeting, the special event, window shopping, strolling
  4. Cultural events; the rush to the movies, theater, the ballet, concert or opera
  5. Night shift; cleaning crews, around-the-clock services, such as transit, and emergency repairs and services begin
  6. After hours; nightclubbing and after-hours clubs
  7. Early risers; the first shift arrives, outdoor markets set up, newspapers arrive
  8. Dawn; the commuters begin to arrive, power breakfast on Wall Street
[Copyright Leni Schwendinger 2009]
Lightmapping event November 2009

Eight-Shades-of-Night Light Walk; preparation and discussion

 

In November 2009, Professional Lighting Design Association held a program of Lightmapping in New York City.  Our team was led by urban designer Brian McGrath, architectural designer Ute Besenecker and me. This light walk was formulated to explore my  Eight-Shades-of-Night framework in the environs of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  Light changes and social activity throughout the night from dusk to dawn were documented by photography and light level readings. Here, our presentation, limited to ten images as per the Lightmapping guidelines, was selected from hundreds of photographs from the area. [click “full screen” mode for best viewing]

Lightmapping event November 2009

Eight-Shades-of-Night Light Walk; out on the street from dusk 'til dawn

 

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Read this debate published by Design Observer (links to Part 1 and Part 2) for more information about public lighting and  a forward-looking concept about community control of adaptive lighting.

The past two months have been hectic, filled with travel, talks, awards, movies and a steady flow of work at Light Projects.

It seems like an annual sequence of visits to Copenhagen Center of Lys Mexico and Scandinavia has been established.  My entry on the October 15th CIHAC Sustainable Lighting conference in Mexico City can be found here.  Left, November 5th, on stage in Copenhagen, Center for Lys. A larger collection of this city’s images and movies to be posted soon.

After that it was a whirlwind tour – On November 13th to Dallas for the Main Street Garden Park ribbon cutting – here is a tiny movie that sums up the project on the new Light Projects’ YouTube channel.

From Dallas it was a short trip, on the 14th to Louisville to meet new Light Projects collaborators, CARMEN landscape architects, for a streetscape and underpass project adjacent to the new arena, and to create a new gateway to the wonderful Hargreaves-designed waterfront.  More to come on this as we move through the concept phase.

Back to New York City for a breath of metropolitan air, I gave a presentation to the Professional Lighting Design Association on LightMapping on November 18th, then off to Boston to speak on a panel for Build Boston.  I joined fellow Society for Design Administrators on a panel; Business Manager – Hire, Fire or Inspire on the 19th of the month.

Lightmapping NYC-Shades of Night Study

Hopped on Amtrak, for another weekend home in the Big Apple, leaving in the wee hours Monday, November 23rd to travel to Fort Worth, Texas for a feasibility study presentation for Starry Trail Crossing, Light Projects’ new commission for a public art sculpture to be integrated on the replacement bridge at West Seventh Street.

Upon return to New York City, Interior Design Magazine informs that Light Projects’ colorful infrastructure project, Triple Bridge Gateway has been selected for a Merit Award (an outdoor luminous room?). Recipients and friends congregated at the swanky party held at the Guggenheim Museum on December 3.

Jewel-Light Luminaire (TM)

Coming soon, Wednesday, December 9th, the Jewel-Light Luminaire (TM) launch.  Culminating a four year development of an LED globe lighting fixture, Leni Schwendinger Light Projects has teamed up with Lighting Science Group to commercialize the product.  I envision these pearls-with-diamonds-inset on bridges, towers, building tops – creating sparkling joyful environments – whether infrastructural or architectural.

Next… bring on the holidays!

Born to go to Mexico City, “La Capital”

LS-Aztec_inspired

Leni aspired to Mexicana status, here pictured in red dress with Aztec-inspired embroidery

Growing up in Los Angeles Spanish language study started in 5th grade.  We created our own Spanish books – mine was over-sized with a hard cover surfaced in canvas and splatter paint.  the binding was tied with leather thong.  In my imagination, Mexico was associated with music, rich colors, copper metal, a land of deserts, carvings and people who were so fascinating that they spoke a different language than me.  I had a wish to be Mexicana.  Above all I wanted to visit Mexico City.

So, when Jeffrey Miller, President of IALD texted a request from China about my interest in speaking on City Beautification in Mexico City I was thrilled!

This city of great layered history — and pre-history –was opened to me through the inimitable process of Dérive, with my constant companion and explorer, Mark Kramer.

Ciudad de México is inhabited by 8,836,045 inhabitants (2008 figure, Wikipedia) and Greater Mexico City has a population exceeding 19 million people, making it the second largest metropolitan area in the Americas and the third largest agglomeration in the world (Wikipedia).

IALD Conference on Sustainable Design at CIHAC

Convention Center

Expo CIHAC (Centro Impulsor de la Construccion y la Habitacion) was held on October 13-17th, 2009 at the Banamex Convention Center, Mexico City.  The Expo is the most important construction exhibition in Mexico. It gathers together project developers, contractors, consultants, engineers and building material suppliers.  This year CIHAC partnered with IALD (International Association of Lighting Designers) to hold a Conference on Sustainable Design.  Mexico’s IALD chapter sponsored the event.  It was a great opportunity to meet with my south-of-the-border colleagues.

The Banamex Convention Center is adjacent to the Americas Horse Racetrack.  Upon arrival we were mesmerized by the trotting horses out for practice.  I joined North American lighting design colleagues Charles Stone and  Mark Loeffler at the podium.

Charles discussion of White Light in Public Lighting was the perfect counterpoint to mine, with its focus on colored light.  Mark’s LEED and Lighting Design walked the audience through the ever more complex arena of “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” and how lighting applies. Mark also spoke on Daylighting Design.

CIHAC Speakers

My topic City Beautification, The Use of Color and Light posits that the use of colored light in the urban environment has exploded.  With the continued development of LED sources the lighting designers’ paintbox has been redefined and colored light is not only technically more possible than in the past, but the technologies are more energy-saving  and sustainable in terms of maintenance.  In this talk I address “by what measure can designers agencies and owners rate the applicability of colored light in the city environment?”  I review the artistic use of color and how to judge good design using color theory, case studies and a checklist. Here, a link to the hand out.

Walking the Streets

Walking is knowing a city…

View here a video of an animated Walk signal, and a great sense of Mexican traffic engineering humor, the Don’t Walk signal – with a person impatiently tapping his foot and consulting a wristwatch as the seconds tick by… to walk.

Envision the experience of the street through the moments that captured me and and in turn are captured by my camera.

Medians and Malls

streetscape

Paving Patterns, Shadows, Light and Textures

Paving

Street Corners

corner

Lighting Fixtures and Side Streets After-dark

mex_lighting

The Zócalo, la Plaza Suprema

Urban planners and designers are ever questing for the perfect recipe for town squares and plazas. Mexico City’s Zócalo — Plaza de la Constitución — is a prime reference – often mentioned in discussion of urban landscape design.

Zocalo_area

Streets branching off the Zocalo

At long last, I was able to visit — see, sense, feel — the genuine article — the authentic plaza, the Zócalo.  I was fascinated by the shared space of pedestrians, cars and bicycles and delivery carts.  Even on a weekday, the sidewalks and streets were packed.  “Shared streets” or “shared space” is a traffic engineering concept to remove separations between vehicles and pedestrians, and devices such as curbs, painted lines, signs and signals. The logic is that humans can be self regulated when forced to…an interesting civic pact.  It felt, here on the main square streets, that the concept of shared streets had not been enforced or planned but simply an authentic need had been fulfilled — that of a huge metropolis and its circulation evolving.

The Zócalo Edge; Metropolitan Cathedral

(Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de María)

Catedral Metropolitana

Because of its rich natural, archeological and architectural sites Mexico ranks within the top countries with the most UNESCO World Heritage sites.  As we walked toward the Zócalo through the busy foot traffic, jewelry and watch stores, cafes and restaurants and sidewalk markets our eyes gravitated naturally to the Metropolitan Cathedral which defines the north edge of the plaza.  Its ornate carvings of stone and wood bursts out of the facade beckoning visitors.

The Cathedral is the largest and oldest cathedral in the Americas. It is sited upon a sacred Aztec precinct near the Templo Mayor. The cathedral was built around a church that was constructed after the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán — the Aztec’s capital city (1573 to 1813) — and finally replaced the church. The Metropolitan was inspired by Spain’s Gothic cathedrals.  Its Baroque-style facade and 64-meter high Neoclassical-style towers contain 18 bells.

The ethereal glow of the ornate interior reveals five naves, several chapels, two impressive pipe organs, religious paintings and figurines.  The decor, whispered hush and flicker of candles conspire to create a time/space wonderment.

The Zócalo Edge; Templo Mayor

templo_mayor_plaque

“Next door” to the Cathedral is the Templo Mayor (Great Temple)

The Aztec legend describes the siting of the Temple as a fulfillment of a prophecy; where an eagle was seen perched on a cactus devouring a snake.

Construction began around 1325 AD and the Temple was continually enlarged over the next two centuries. A the time of the Spanish Conquest, in 1521, the temple was the center of this Tenochtitlan, with a population of 300,000.

The temple was nearly destroyed by the Spaniards after their conquest of Tenochtitlan.

The Templo Mayor excavation began 30 years ago after electrical tradesmen discovered the ruins.

Templo Mayor Mexico City

Two life-size clay figures from this trove represent the two faces of Aztec religion. A winged warrior, his head poking out from an eagle’s beak, with talons erupting from his knees, symbolizes life or the sun at dawn. Discovered only a decade ago, a grisly, six-foot-tall, clay figure – with his liver dangling beneath exposed ribs – represents death. Both were revered. The equal value of life and death explains “why the images of death are so strong,” says Felipe Solís, curator and the foremost authority on the Aztecs. “At Mexico City’s core beats an Aztec heart”  — Carol Strickland, Christian Science Monitor

Culture

Museo Nacional de Antropología

Museo de Anthropologica

On our way to the Museo de Anthropologica we strolled through Chapultepec Park.  A large scale photo exhibition mounted on an iron fence was composed of provocative images in billboard style.   The Museum, in mid-century modern/Mexican style, is stunning – the sleek lines interrupted by pattern and relief.  The first gallery was a contemporary take by several artists, on Mexico City and its populous.  Salvage materials, video, industrial homage and individual stories tell the life of the lesser known Mexicano.

The monumental collection is humbling.  Here, another chance to experience the ancient, this time through a curated collection.

culture

Left: billboard photo exhibit, Center: View of Chapultepec, Right: the Kahlo-Rivera House-Study

Lighting designer Gustavo Aviles, and his wife Magi, took us to dinner at the Colonia San Ángel Inn. After an evening of laughter and conversation they surprised us by pointing out the Kahlo/Rivera House-Study right across the street. The intense and creative couple — Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera — painted and housed their skull collection, as well as pre-Columbian art and Mexican crafts here.

The complex, two buildings connected by a bridge, is one the most important cultural landmarks of Mexico City. It was designed by Juan O’Gorman — an architect and painter.  It is a a merging of modern Mexican architecture and the International style.

The work caused a heated controversy in the 1930s by combining organic Mexican architecture and architectural murals with functionalism. So was the breaking of all the aesthetic paradigms of architecture in Mexico until then, to incorporate such blunt theories and thoughts as most avant-garde architects (as Le Corbusier) were developing on the European continent. Thoughts such as the rational use of materials, analysis of the functioning of ideal spaces and the adequacy of them to accommodate activities that took place within them – ideas that were radical at first but eventually were assimilated into the worldwide architectural community. These houses were made possible with minimum cost and effort.

Diego Rivera Studio Museum was established by presidential decree in 1981, opening its doors in 1986. In 1994, the INBA made the restoration and rehabilitation of houses a cultural heritage site of the nation, according to the decree published in the Diario Oficial on March 25, 1998. — Wikiarquitectura.com

I heartily recommend the movie Frida Kahlo directed by Julie Taymor for the flavor, color and sounds of a time in Mexico. And here a link of the real Frida and Diego.

La Capital is an exemplar of metropolitan life, and I like to think that my explorations have just begun.

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.


LightMappingNYC

LightMapping NYC is intended to provide the New York City lighting design community with a forum to consider the current, past and future conditions of their urban environment at night.  The multi-part program will include a walking tour of The High Line, interactive group walks in the city at night, and a group discussion / reception.  Attendees are encouraged to join multiple events, but are also welcome to choose what best fits their interest and schedule.

Lightwalk leader, Leni Schwendinger invites you to view NIGHT CITY, her video inspired by the Professional Lighting Designers’ Association LightMapping events. <Click to view Leni’s NIGHT CITY>

Group Session: Take The High Line

Wednesday 11 November, 6:00pm to 8:00pm

LightWalk Sessions

10 November thru 16 November, times and locations vary
Locations include: Times Square, Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Meatpacking District, Midtown West, Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO underpasses, and Virtual New York City.

Final Session: Presentations and Reception

Wednesday 18 November, 6:00pm to 9:00pm

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A component of the PLDA’s global Lightmapping project, LightMapping NYC is a joint program of the PLDA, DLFNY, and IESNY, and is sponsored by iGuzzini North America.  All events are free and open to the public!

Visit iesnyc.org/LightMappingNYCfor additional program information and to register for events.

Registration begins Friday 30 October!

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.