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.

Triple Bridge Gateway was honored by the Society For Environmental Graphic Design’s MERIT AWARD on May 30, 2009.

To learn more, join Leni Schwendinger, Light Projects LTD and Henry Stolzman, PKSB Architects, at the Architectural League’s lecture series New York Designs: Public on June 4th.

All Images by ArchPhototb_0202tb_0103tb_0701

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May 17th – Meatpacking District Design ’09

An unusual breezy Sunday.  We met at the Standard Hotel. Quietly thrilling to walk a few blocks to the glass-slab building which reflects light from the Hudson River from two directions – slightly south and slightly north.  Double sunset.

The rendezvous was set but the itinerary was not.  How would we feel, in the adjacent neighborhood of cobbles and eviscerated butchershops – now overrun by design seekers enjoying the Department of Transportation’s new traffic/public space patterning?

After drinks in the lounge, our group of writers, artists and designers, animated, wobbled on.  Here, on “Gansevoort Plaza”, shipping containers showcasing Finnish Design, and along the street, welcoming high fashion shop-doors were open.

414 Gallery was a target, but was so crowded and jumbled that we opted for the drinks and continued on.  CORE 77 describes it,

…The space acts as a sort of gallery concentrator, gathering together recent work from IDEA/Brasil, IDSA New York members, Iceland Design Center, designboom, LO-TEK, and a number of other design and architecture studios.

Bustelo-coffee-in-cans, macerated fruit and vodka, sidecars… in the main, drinking and walking typified the halcyon day.

Pictured above, fig. 2 – the three writers; Andy Forell,  Lani Steinberg, Mark Kramer (author “Lee Lozano.net“)… and me. Fig 4 – Conceptual artist (and wearable art designer) Sakurako Shimizu… and me.

CaroleeMay 18 – Carolee Schneemann at St. Mark’s Church In-the-Bowery

Happily traipsing to St. Mark’s Church In-the-Bowery (MTA Bus M8) we anticipated a historic event, Mysteries of the Iconographies, a visual talk by the artist Carolee Schneemann, who, in her own words is “transforming the definition of art, especially discourse on the body, sexuality, and gender”. She asserted the connection of her youthful sketches to her adult art making– one’s “own iconographies”.  Stairs, sticks, lines and ropes… a humble discourse on childhood symbols and an eloquent tracing of her spectacular controversies.

A particularly poignant slide reminded us of St. Mark’s Church In-the-Bowery‘s deep arts history.  An image  from the late 60’s performance Water Light/Water Needle was projected, depicting the very same Parish Hall in which we were listening to the artist talk that evening.

Pictured above, projections from Schneemann’s lecture, Fig 1 – Interior Scroll, Fig 2 – Carolee speaking, Fig 3 – Water Light/Water Needle (1966).

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May 20 – American Academy of Arts and Letters

The big trip… take the A-train and then the C to 155th Street clutching our hard-copy invitations. On May 20th, the American Academy held it’s annual ceremony honor over 50 composers, artists, architects, and writers with cash awards ranging from $5,000 to $75,000.

My composer cousin Laura Elise Schwendinger was the recipient of the Goddard Lieberson fellowship for mid-career composers of exceptional gifts grant.  And we were there to  is to observe her acceptance – and to cheer as the institution  inducted nine members into the 250-person organization: artist Judy Pfaff and architect Tod Williams; writers T. Coraghessan Boyle, Jorie Graham, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Richard Price; composers Stephen Hartke, Frederic Rzewski, and Augusta Read Thomas.

After basking in the celebrity of intellectuals and artists, a group of us, now including sculptor Judy Fox and composer Sebastian Currier , descended the hill to somewhere around 130th Street and then the stone stair-wall that separates Riverside Drive from the Hudson’s shore to have dinner and share experiences of the day.

Pictured above, (right to left, top to bottom), Fig 1 – Laura, Fig 2 – the gate, Fig 3 – T.C. Boyle, Fig 4 and 6 – view of the ceremony from the balcony, and Fig 5 – Architect Stan Allen’s magnificent, multi-color site model.

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May 22 – Publicolor Design Module

And to complete a week of intensive observation, reflection, revelry and camaraderie, I spoke before an audience of high-schoolers at Publicolor for the “Design Module” – a weekly session with designers describing their jobs.

Telling the story of my development as an artist and designer via the world of film, community activism and civic theatre, I realized how extraordinarily my life and practice has progressed — and struggled to describe my serendipitous and self-made opportunities to these disaffected teenage students.  The Color Club students asked me if I “liked my work” (“Yes”),  what my “favorite color” was (“Colors are site specific”) and we discussed the merits of light and shadow.

Pictured above, scenes from Stir, Splatter+ Roll Gala 2009 (Light Projects’ 10th year participating as Lighting Design consultant and mine; as team leader, for the Publicolor annual fundraiser).

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* dérive

One of the basic situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.

In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones. — Theory of the Dérive by Guy-Ernest Debord

goingpub_2 This sold-out conference was presented by the Greater New York Construction User Council and the Building Trades Employers’ Association at  AIA Center for Architecture (NYC), April 21,2009.

The panels were:

Rebuilding our Nation’s Infrastructure, from Housing to Highways, Green Retrofitting of Public and Private Buildings, Public-Private Partnerships for Municipal and Institutional construction, Renewable Energy for the 21st Century.

Here I comment on two of them:

Rebuilding our Nation’s Infrastructure, from Housing to Highways

Michael Della Rocca, President/Regional Managing Director, North America Halcrow Inc

After 30 years doing this work, infrastructure is finally a headline story.

Mr. Della Rocca discussed why the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds are more valuable;  usually federal funding has to be matched by the state at  80/20 or 50/50, this program is 100% on the dollar.  Projects will be bid as usual.  Agencies involved include DOT, Amtrak and Metro North.  There is a “Use it or lose it”.  The  projects have time sensitivity – have to be completed in 120 days or365 days depending on requirements.

ARRA Priorities:

  1. job creation
  2. speed – shovel ready, design is done, ready to bid
  3. green component, for example, public transit

Mr. Della Rocca’s counter intuitive statement; Why it is important that Recovery Acts projects succeed.

Every six years a new transportation bill is reauthorized.  On  September 30 2009 the new legislation will be passed regarding how transportation monies are allocated and spent.   If we are effective there will be more political will to add more transportation dollars.

He mentioned Transportation for America’s T4 Platform designed to guide the new federal surface transportation authorization legislation.  This is important! If you do not know T4 yet – see the Transportation for America website – a comprehensive review the issues, headlines and organizations who support a wide ranging platform for the renewed TEA bill, surprisingly inclusive of a sustainable transportation system (including high- speed rail and world-class public transportation), infrastructure, walking and biking and new public policy of accountability.

In 2009, Congress and the next Administration will face the expiration of the current $286 billion national transportation program. The choice is clear: Move our nation in a bold new direction, or continue on the current path of spending billions of taxpayer dollars with little accountability on a system that is both BROKE and BROKEN. (Transportation for America Website)

New York City’s transit/transportation use is skewed opposite to the rest of the country.  Federal funding used to slant toward creating urban sprawl (roadways) and now, with a focus on transit-oriented development, funds favor the NYC approach.

David Tweedy, Chief of Capital Planning, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PA)

Issues from the owner’s perspective:

  • lost revenue from bridges and tunnels
  • challenges as a Bi-State agency
  • annual plan has to balance – not enough revenues
  • commit and award $3.3 billion — a historic amount to capital projects such as airports, security, sustainability

PA is not beneficiary of first round of stimulus funds but  if  MTA gets money, the linkages to Port Authority services- such as 1 and 9 subway lines at the Hub – are enhanced.  Also, Route 9A impacts PA services.  He stated that phasing projects so that smaller firms can bid has made the Port’s MBE/WBE/DBE program very strong, robust and outreach is good.

PA is helping other agencies with weaker MBE/WBE/DBE programs.

(Light Projects had to apply first to Port Authority to enter the Unified Application for Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, a must for small businesses to qualify for  federally funded projects. Refer to  my previous post – February)

The World Trade Center rebuilding is expending up $11 billion over 5 years — and there is a burden on balancing capital planning and spending… “quiet projects tend to be deferred”, he stated.

What about P3?  Mr. Tweedy had the same answer as Executive Director, Christopher Ward, as quoted in my February post about the Construction Users Council’s previous meeting; the PA is “taking  a hard look” at PPP for the Staten Island bridges linking New York with New Jersey; the Bayonne, Goethals and Outerbridge Crossing.  All need refurbishment and the Bayonne Bridge in particular will need an overhaul to accept taller ships that the new dimensions of the Panama Canal allow.

Constructing the Economic Recovery – Public-Private Partnerships for Municipal and Institutional Construction.

Kenneth D. Levien, President Levien & Company

Where did PPP come from? Mr. Levien humorously invoked the Daily News’ famous banner headline when President Ford declared his lack of support for  “a federal bail-out of New York City” in 1975.

FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD [“I can tell you now that I am prepared to veto any bill that has as its purpose a federal bailout of New York City to prevent a default,” the President said.]

Here I reproduce Mr. Leviens PowerPoint primer on public/private…

Successful public/private projects generally share three attributes:

  • partners are cooperative rather than adversarial, because their interests align
  • formal contracts set the terms under which they share risk and responsibility for mutual financial gain and social benefit.
  • custom tailored business arrangements often persist after the project is completed and operating.

Why establish public/private partnerships?

  • the actual cost of providing government services is too high
  • it creates more budget capacity for your operating budget and it spreads the risk
  • having alternative activities with partners spreads the risk
  • merging resources helps to create a higher service delivery between partners
  • creates entrepreneurial opportunities not always affordable to public agencies
  • expands and changes the staff’s mindset in creative thinking when you have to plan with your partner
  • creates a market driven approach to service delivery versus a product approach
  • service to patrons becomes the key to success in partnering.

Why partnerships fail:

  • lack of commitment from one or multiple partners
  • using partnership for personal gain
  • the objectives lacked clarity
  • greater than reasonable expectations form the partner
  • the agreement was not equitable – not considered a Win-Win
  • hidden agendas on both sides
  • did not communicate effectively and no follow through.

John T Livingston, President Tishman Construction Corp.

… don’t confuse design-ready with shovel ready. Has the project been value-engineered?  If so then it is shovel ready. And despite requirement for shovel ready projects they will still be widely advertised and subject to competition.

Mr. Livingston feels that potential PPP Projects will be infrastructure such as tunnels, bridges, and highways; buildings such as courthouses, office buildings and renovations of existing buildings;  energy sustainability projects;  and FDIC joint venture for development projects.

steelmillsatnight-circa1950It is exhilarating and astonishing indeed to be living this infrastructure headline world.   Born a steel-mill electrician’s daughter, stories of pig iron, scrap metal and smelting were narrated by both my father and mother, generally while on a journey by car.  I grew up fascinated by the working world and how it worked.

Building and crafting were noble… and no job was too hard to do or envision.

As a New Yorker,  I have not driven for over a decade, walking and public transportation are daily modes of movement.  Pounding my dear city’s pavement while envisioning a city of light is not impossible these days.

CITY TO CITIZEN: I AM YOUR HOME

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Resources

ANALYSIS-Clock ticking on US transportation bill (Reuters April 28, 2009)

Federal

www.Recovery.gov -As the centerpiece of the President’s commitment to transparency and accountability, Recovery.gov will feature information on how the Act is working, tools to help you hold the government accountable, and up-to-date data on the expenditure of funds.

www.grants.gov -Grants.gov is your source to FIND and APPLY for federal government grants.

www.FedBizOpps.gov – the federal government’s one-stop virtual marketplace

www.GovLoans.gov – your source for locating the loans you need

www.GovBenefits.gov – the official benefits website of the U.S. government, with information on over 1,000 benefit and assistance programs.

Progress Report; US DOT – this is the 100 day report card from the US Department of Transportation

EPA Implementation of ARRA – read about the Environmental Protection Agencies progress

State

www.economicrecovery.ny.gov – New York State Information Related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

www.panynj.gov – Port Authority of NY and NJ

City

www.nycetc.org – NYC Training Employment Coalition

NYC.Gov – Stimulus Tracker With the NYCStat Stimulus Tracker, New Yorkers can track the City’s use of federal stimulus/recovery funds provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

Public Art New York

Jean Parker Phifer, author and Francis Dzikowski, photographer have published a useful and inspiring guide to permanent public art in NYC.

Light Projects’ illumination of the Coney Island Parachute Jump is presented with a beautiful magic-hour photograph.

…the iridescent lighting keyed to the seasons of the year and to special holidays has renewed the neighborhood’s appreciation of its delightful and colorful past.

The project brings renewed focus and artful celebration to a previously neglected remnant of recreational infrastructure.

The book is located in bookstores near you or on Amazon.

Sackler Center, Brooklyn Museum; Judy Chicago's Dinner Party

Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art Center, Brooklyn Museum; Photo by Aislinn Weidele/Polshek Partnership Architects

After combing through 404 entries — 160 in architecture, 118 in interiors, and 126 projects — the 2009 AIANY Design Awards were announced on February 24th.

(Published in AIA E-Oculus Reports from the Field on February 24th, 2009)

Interiors — Merit
Jury: Randy Brown, FAIA, LEED AP, Randy Brown Architects (Omaha); Ivonne Garcia, AIA, AECOM (Arlington, VA); Eva Jiricna, Hon. FAIA, Eva Jiricna Architects (London).

Polshek Partnership Architects
Brooklyn Museum, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn, NY
Brooklyn Museum

Quoting the architect, Susan T. Rodriguez, Design Partner , Polshek Partnership Architects from the Museum’s website essay,

“The Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art establishes a vital new venue and focal point within the Brooklyn Museum. The design for the new Center creates a visually distinctive environment symbolic of the Museum’s commitment to creating a permanent home for showcasing feminist art and recognizing and exploring the importance of a woman’s point of view…

A metal lighting armature extends over the visitor’s path from the surrounding walls to define the circulation zone and accent each individual place setting. Carefully focused light illuminates the intricate details of each place setting, as well as the luminous quality of the ceramic tile base…

In addition to the technical and architectural challenges presented by an intervention within a nineteenth-century structure, curatorial and conservation requirements for the permanent installation of a fragile artwork had to be addressed. Exterior wall upgrades were designed and contemporary mechanical systems introduced to ensure a stable and comfortable environment. An intelligent lighting control system has been integrated to minimize the work’s exposure to light when the galleries are unoccupied.”


Javits Convention CenterThere was huge attendance at Javits Center for a “meet and greet” with New York State agencies including NYS-DOT, MTA, PANYNJ, construction companies and professional organizations. The main objective was to  get tips on M/WBE programs [ Minority and Woman -owned Business Enterprises] and DBE [Disadvantaged Business Enterprise – “small business”] programs to continue ensure qualification for infrastructure projects.  Leni Schwendinger Light Projects is a registered WBE, but we wanted to learn about DBE , which will allow smoother entré into federal or state projects with federal funding.   Thankfully there is a New York State Unified Certification Program which allows for one certification application , which is honored by all other DBE certifying state agencies that receive funds from the United States Department of Transportation.

The visiting agencies were very helpful with the certification forms.  Additionally, we visited with MTA/LIRR and learned about the GEC (General Engineer Contracts), which is a pre-qualified list for MTA work and discussed issues of public sector projects with other W/M/D BE business owners and contractors.  We spoke with the dynamic and enthusiastic Women Builders Council representatives. The Council provides advocacy, mentoring, capacity building, procurement opportunities and best practices.
Organizing Agencies:
• New York State Department of Transportation – NYSDOT
• Empire State Development Corporation – ESDC
• Port Authority of New York/New Jersey – PANYNJ
• Federal Highway Administration – FHWA

Supporting Organizations:
• General Contractors Association of New York – GCA/NY
• Long Island Contractors Association, Inc – LICA
• The Associated General Contractors of New York State – AGC/NY
• General Building Contractors of New York State – GBC/NYS
• Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley – CIC
• New York Roadway Improvement Coalition – NYRIC
• American Council of Engineering Companies of New York – ACEC
• Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York – MTA
• US Dept of Commerce – Minority Business Development Agency
• US DOT – Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization
• Regional Alliance for Small Contractors
• Women Builders Council, Inc
• Jamaica Business Resource Center
• Conference of Minority Transportation Officials
Partners:
• Association of Minority Enterprises of New York
• National Hispanic Business Group
• Asian Women in Business
• Professional Women in Construction
• New York State Minority Contractors Association
• Minority Contractors Association of New York