Leni Schwendinger in Times Square

I was thrilled to receive a message from Dietrich Neumann, whose “Architecture of the Night” has inspired so many. He indicated that he had hoped to attend the Bryant Park, NYC LightWalk one year ago, but had been waylaid, and that now, very soon, he planned to bring his students to Times Square… and wouldn’t I take them on a LightWalk?

As serendipity would have it, I have been studying the Square, for the Light Projects role as lighting consultants for the Times Square Pedestrianization project on the Snohetta-led design team.

Times Square is only zone that I know of that has a minimum lighting/signage requirement which has resulted in the mandate of brighter is better.  Here are large scale panels of  light communicating in an ever-advancing, electronic graphic-design language.  The effect is awesome, that is, mesmerizing – a free drive-in movie on foot.

Some History

The billboards of  20th century Times Square were more dimensional, formed and handcrafted. Novelty is still an important part of the light signs, but the novelty resides in graphic code and the signs are flat or skinning the facades of buildings. This Artkraft Strauss “Vintage Times Square Signs” video from 1920’s to 1960’s illustrates the technological shifts in sign design.  And from the New York Times, 2006, the denouement; an auction of signs and design sketches; Neon Nostalgia From Times Square to Be Sold by Sign Maker.

“The days of the handcrafted neon spectacular are pretty much gone with the 20th century. We built all these one-of-a-kind, fantastic displays throughout the century, but now, in the 21st century, the medium is electronic: computer-controlled light-emitting diodes; big video screens; the big pictorials printed by giant drum printers on vinyl. The art — or craft or trade — of painting is gone.” — Tama Starr…the third generation of her family to run Artkraft Strauss.

The LightWalk

On November 20th a number of Professor Neumann’s students presented research into the history of Times Square lighting and architecture atop the tiered, red steps of TKTS/Duffy Square.

Then off we went, a group of about 20, into the thick crowds of a Saturday evening around 6:30 PM.  One of my first observations were the pigeons foraging at night – when had I last seen birds on the sidewalk in a city? This is definitely a side effect of vast quantities of light.

TimesSquare_reflections

Observations of light and shadow in Times Square fall into a few categories; panels of LED and bracketed sign light, reflections and “borrowed effects”, few private or darkened moments, and massive application of animated, colored light.  Private light is the largest contribution of brightness, street lighting is overshadowed (or over-brightened).

Advertising panelized light sources create dense blankets of light.  The key source of illumination are the billboards, both printed and LED direct-view.  The light is cast obliquely, as if side-lighting a dance performance on stage.

Reflections double the ad space in an eerie value-added move.  Reflections of pixelated light are re-pixelated by neighboring rows of windows.

Locating shadows: it is as if we, the visitors, are on-stage.  Cast shadows are noticeable on the ground plan and they are us… moving bodies.  Primary shadows (that which “stick” to the object and give it form) are found only by concentrated and tenacious observation.

Activities by street visitors include another media — cameras clicking, people posing, an altogether self reflective and reflexive, experience of light, commerce and ensuing happiness.

Times Square with Brown University Students

Quotable, in regards to the new, pedestrianized Times Square, now in conceptual design

Times Square, the globally recognized after-dark crossroads of the world will be completely transformed by our team. My ideas for the lighting of Times Square will take into account the walls of Times Square, the buildings that make the walls, their lighting, catalyzing the uses and activities of the new plaza, and integrating into our team’s approach to the architecture and landscape of tomorrow’s Times Square. – Leni Loves the Lights on the Great White Way, Architect’s Newspaper

We hope to redefine the role of light in the public space of Times Square for pedestrians. Times Square and the Great White Way, which is more Broadway and the theaters of Times Square, has a reputation for strolling. From the beginning of Times Square, there has been a legacy of social space and advertising. So, the rationale for Times Square has been continuous, but it’s also gotten overly-crowded. The differing objectives of cars and pedestrians has become rather adversarial.

Lighting has been mandated in Times Square. We have a minimum foot candle requirement. This is written as a regulatory guideline. It’s quite unusual — cities usually have maximum foot candle levels. We want pedestrians to stay and hang out, have fun. I hope that lighting will change from its role of entertaining and selling to enabling more down the earth activities we have yet to define. What kind of games can we play with light? What kinds of conversation areas can we create simply by defining boundaries with light? —Interview with Leni Schwendinger, Light Artist and Designer, American Society of Landscape Architects

Other Resources

Webcam at 43rd Street and Broadway

Here is another excellent resource, the book, “Times Square Spectacular; Lighting up Broadway“.

Dwell “As you Light It – Interview with Leni Schwendinger” (click through blog synopsis to video)

wwwNightSeeing.net is the website to follow global NightSeeing™ activities and to book a LightWalk

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.

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.

tb_0801

A Thousand Points on Light: Part I:

A dark-sky activist and a celebrated designer discuss the best (if not the brightest) ways to light the environment. By Karrie Jacobs — Susan Harder/International Dark-Sky Association; Leni Schwendinger

A Thousand Points on Light: Part II:

Is a well-lit neighborhood really safer? Is “pollution” the best way to describe excess light? The conversation continues between lighting designer Leni Schwendinger and dark-sky activist Susan Harder. By Karrie Jacobs

train_stylized_MTA-CA_john Mattos

Image: MTC/California High-Speed Train from 1999

From Progressive Railroading:

The Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009 (STAA) proposes $99.8 billion for public transportation — a more than 90 percent increase compared with SAFETEA-LU levels. The bill also calls for investing $50 billion in high-speed rail.

The (funding) guidelines institute a July 10 pre-application deadline, which will enable the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to provide feedback on project applications, according to National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP).  Final applications for funding Tracks 1, 3 and 4 are due Aug. 24; applications for funding Track 2 are due by Oct. 2.

The FRA plans to award the first round of grants by mid-September.

American Society of Civil Engineers comments:

The blueprint … will form a solid foundation for the future of the nation’s transportation systems.

US transportation ‘blueprint’ doubles spending to $500bn (6/18)

USDOT unveils application guidelines for high-speed stimulus dollars (6/18)

House committee leaders introduce surface transportation authorization bill (6/19)

High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Interim Program Guidance – (Pre-Application updated 6/19)

DOT Information Related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery “Tiger”

aerial

A/E firms (and  sub-consultants who regularly team for public works) should get their Federal Forms  SF 330 updated and ready to create design team proposals, as indicated by Ann Looper Pryor’s post on LinkedIn, today, May 7, 2009,

Several major funding sources will start the RFP process  in mid-May to fulfill the strict funding deadlines as discussed previously on this blog.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act gives agencies, counties, and municipalities … 90-120 days to obligate funding to “shovel ready” projects. That means that between May 18 and June 19, recipients of the funding will be in a full court press to secure design professionals to take advantage of those funds within the federal Fiscal Year 2009, ending September 30. Another surge in public project inquiries is expected June through September as the Federal Omnibus Budget (supplemental funding for March 6-September 30, 2009) and the 2010 Federal Budget (October 1, 2009-September 30, 2010) kick in for agency capital improvements and a variety of state programs.

This report is based on the post Good Economic News for Landscape Architecture Profession on LinkedIn’s American Society of Landscape Architects’ group by Ann Looper Pryor; Publisher, Landscape Architecture Magazine and Managing Director, Resource Development  of the American Society of Landscape Architects

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).