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In 2001, for their 20th anniversary issue Metropolis magazine’s back page featured several architects’ and designers’ quick visions for future designs or objects.

Then, much public space was built as a result of private developer incentives – and meanly edged with serrated metal bars and spikes.  Those were the days when benches were removed from subway stations.

Now, in the age of Google Streetview and a increasingly laser-like focus on pedestrianization, my vision of a “mapping device” that identifies “negative spaces” such as forecourts, sidewalks and parking lots – which was not all that exciting or commonly shared value then — seems prescient.

Next, connecting up atmospheres and activities through electronic controls. A scenography of public light and life.

 

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It was cold, it was dark…normal site study conditions.  

Arup staff and I braved the night with cameras, illuminance meters, laser measurement tools and paper plans to parse the high-pressure sodium nighttime environment. Here, an informal outcome, a 61-second video of the monumental Gowanus Expressway intersection, Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Marvel at the many illuminated phenomena – the blinks, the blurs, the limited color range…industrial building lantern effect, crosswalk retro-reflectivity, the glare of under-bridge fixtures and hazy baby-aspirin colored blanket of light…everywhere.

 

 

… and imagine, if you dare, the future of this site, a pilot project to allow humanity to explore, with pleasure, perhaps fascination, the monstrous forms above and street level destinations that may develop through the taming process of light, green infrastructure and urban design.

UNDER THE ELEVATED: PHASE II is a Design Trust initiative. The website spells out the background, process and profiles the three Fellows.

Cities Alive, Rethinking the Shades of NightA long envisioned future practice, “nighttime design” stepped into the spotlight with two publications in early 2015. In short, my team and colleagues at Arup have agreed that broadening the purview of urban lighting into a interdisciplinary process of design is the way forward.  Firstly, Cities Alive, Rethinking the Shades of Night.

Here, the Arup description:

“In the past, the attitude of ‘the more light the better’ has led to a general abundance of light, especially in urban areas, but both light and darkness are equally important to our health and well-being,” said Florence Lam, global lighting design leader at Arup. “With the shift towards 24 hour cities, we should not aim to simply recreate the day at night, but instead, we need to carefully consider the role of night-time lighting. We need to design our cities to change depending on the time of night and the different usage patterns of the public realm after dark – articulating what we call the ‘different shades of night’.”

The report highlights that we need to make human centered night-time design a priority in urban development, and one that should be considered from the earliest planning stages. It proposes that night-time lighting should play a more active role in shaping sustainable cities that are more enjoyable, more sociable, safer, healthier and easier to get around.

“Night-time is fundamentally different from daytime,” said Leni Schwendinger, lighting designer and urbanist at Arup. “In many hotter climates, it provides the best conditions for people to use outdoor urban spaces. So it deserves its own design approach, and thinking harder and smarter about street lighting is a vital part of this.”

The report was collaboration between the Foresight + Research + Innovation and Lighting teams at Arup. Involving a range of internal and external experts.

Link to download Rethinking the Shades of Night.  And here, more about the nighttime design philosphy.

Reference to “shades of night“.

Cities of Light, Two Centuries of Urban IlluminationEarlier in the year, Cities of Light, Two Centuries of Urban Illumination was also released.  This comprehensive volume published by Routledge Press is edited by Sandy Isenstadt, Margaret Maile Petty, Dietrich NeumannEach of 31 chapter covers a city – including Boston, Istanbul, Shanghai, Oulu, Derby… my contribution is New York City, with a chapter on a creative lighting strategy for a Queen’s district conceptualized as A Roadmap for Illumination and Community-Building.

At a moment when the entire world is being reshaped by new lighting technologies and new design attitudes, the longer history of urban lighting remains fragmentary. Cities of Light aims to provide a global framework for historical studies of urban lighting and to offer a new perspective on the fast-moving developments of lighting today.

I have been testing “nighttime design” as a descriptor for a new urban illumination fortified by expertise and input by fellow urbanists, urban designers, social researchers, geographers, economic consultants, landscape architects, just to name a few.  In Cities of Light the phrase was committed to print for the first time.

Read about, and purchase Cities of Light, Two Centuries of Urban Illumination

Lighting is an essential element of our 24/7 world

The world is urbanizing at an unprecedented pace. Once dominant, rural and agricultural populations are now city-bound as people seek new job opportunities and better living conditions.

NightSeeing: Mega-Cities

Click to enlarge

Numeric projections and issues such as the speed at which large cities have burgeoned into mega-cities, the differentiation between”Mega” and “Global” cities and comparative economic, social and health statistics are numerous.* Dr. James Canton, a global futurist and social scientist, states that there are currently twenty-six mega-cities**. This designation is based purely on population; mega-cities are quantified as more than 10-million inhabitants. “Large Urban Agglomerations” consist upwards of  5-million inhabitants and thus include mega-cities. Global cities are those with highly-developed economies and institutions with a high degree of coordination.***

Thus, the urban night is a critical zone for study, design and application

In 2003, I proposed the future malleable, responsive, illuminated city as part of my curriculum at New School/Parsons School of Design’s Designing Urban Nighttime Environments based on “shades of night“.  At that time urbanists and the real estate industry popularized the phrase “24/7” (hours/days per week) to invoke vitality.  It was my sense that as nighttime activities and flexible working hours increasingly redefined urban experience, greater emphasis should be focused on illuminating the after-dark environment.

Now, “smart”, electronic systems for adaptable, sustainable cities are emerging.  These systems control illumination so that light is switched on and off, or dimmed, to save energy.  I propose to broaden the criteria to encompass social sustainability factors such as public health and economic development. Within this vision, local considerations  — real-time activities in the nighttime public realm such as shops open and closed, types of building usage — factor into lighting control plans.  The first step is to understand existing conditions in specific vicinities.

In 2009, as an outcome of my guided student tours, the NightSeeing, Navigate Your Luminous City program was invented to present both an observational and critical review of “what is”, i.e. existing conditions of night-zones, through walking tours with the public, stakeholders, and professionals to encourage transformational public design palettes.  NightSeeing is a method of gleaning community needs and desires for districts undergoing revitalization. The program continues to develop globally, providing an opportunity to compare cultures of light and illumination, sharing with colleagues, friends, and strangers all over the world.  My objective is to walk all of the mega-cities in the near future.

NightSeeing is a preparatory, experiential move. The intent is to raise awareness of all stakeholders that effect — and are affected by — light in the city. It aims to educate the populous, and the power-broker, with an aim toward safe and creative nights in the public realm.

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* Refer to World Population in 2050: Assessing the Projections, a text by Joel E. Cohen for the most current issues

** Mega-cities illustrated by photographs here in the order of Dr. Canton’s “Significance” article

*** Refer to Megacities vs Global Cities: Development and Institutions, Lise Bourdeau-Lepage and Jean-Marie Huriot for the distinction between mega and global -cities

Other Resources:

Website

NightSeeing, Navigate Your Luminous City

Video

NightSeeing Preview Part 1 and Preview Part 2 – Both online briefings for participants

Video of the actual London LightWalk, Part 1 and here, Part 2.

Night City with Leni Schwendinger, in Greenwich Village

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                 NightSeeing is a trademark of Leni Schwendinger Light Projects LTD        
       and is dedicated to co-creator, Mark Kramer, Light Projects’ former writer-in-residence

NightSeeing™ Islington, London

Photo by Leni

The NightSeeing program’s intention is to open people’s eyes to an existing nighttime milieu, as well as providing an overview of public lighting theory in an experiential setting.

NightSeeing™ Islington, London

Photos by Leni

NightSeeing was presented on January 11th, 2011, as part of the Architecture, Residential, Commercial (ARC) Lighting Show in London.  This interactive experience was a guide to the nocturnal lighting environment, culminating in an hour-long evening walk through The Angel, Islington district.

Prior to the program I worked with the hosts on a virtual event preview to brief conference attendees for registration.  (links to Preview Part 1 and Preview Part 2).

NightSeeing™ Islington, London

Photos by Leni

NightSeeing London consisted of two parts.  The first section comprised a LightTalk during conference hours, providing a basic understanding of the systems lighting our cities. The second aspect, LightWalk, was the after-dark walk, in which I decoded the shadows, emanations and reflections that defined the nightscape—from shop silhouettes and signage to streetlights and the phantom photons of passing cars.

NightSeeing™ Islington, London

Photos by Leni

Numbering approximately 50 participants, , we started off from the Business Design Center – equipped for the London weather with glowing umbrellas, a gift from Lighting Alliance/UK. As the group explored the rain-whipped streets of The Angel in Islington—amid the pulsing neon and Saturday night pedestrian and vehicular traffic—the attendees’ many observations and insights created the atmosphere of a movable symposium on the after-dark urban environment.

NightSeeing™ Islington, London

Photos L to R by M Kramer, Andy Spain, M Kramer

Among the significant features of The Angel we focused on were the distinctions between two of the district’s retail sites.

N1 Centre, with the glare of stark white-metal surfaces and shop fronts, was offset by illuminated public art.

NightSeeing™ Islington, London

Camden Passage was distinguished by its handmade surfaces—especially its painted signs and the charming window displays.  In one instance, the reflection of high-pressure sodium light from a lettered sign created an illusion of gleaming gold.

I was pleased and astonished that the attendees at the ARC Show NightSeeing™ were from many nations— including South Africa, Serbia, Germany, Netherlands, France, Norway, and of course, the UK.

Moreover, The Angel event was for me, personally, a kind of homecoming. In the 1970s, I resided in North and East London for a number of years.  Bicycling to Camden Passage and the Chapel Market, in the Angel, and riding the 73-bus and the Northern Line are reference points in my memory of London.  I attended London Film School in Covent Garden, and learned to be very observant of a fully sensorial London with its familiarly welcoming sounds, sights and smells.  What a privilege and pleasure, then, so many years later, revisit these environs, and to be in the Angel as an interpreter to of the after-dark streets.

Here, on YouTube, video of the actual LightWalk courtesy ARC Show’s partner UBM Interiors, Part 1 and Part 2.

The idea for the NightSeeing program originated with a class I taught—at New York‘s Parsons School of Design—in which we would explore urban environments at night.  As soon as we walked out the door there were things to contemplate and discuss. The smallest pixel of light turned into a subject. The excursion became like a treasure hunt, a way of recognizing both “found”, existing light and designed light.

NightSeeing™ Islington, London

From  these modest beginnings, NightSeeing  evolved into site-specific itinerary for the benefit  of lighting designers who work with architects, landscape architects, engineers and other urban design professionals illuminating city structures and locations.

The NightSeeing programme focuses on an ever expanding variety of luminous possibilities.  My personal dream is to take NightSeeing™ to 50 cities in two years.

NightSeeing™ is a trademark of Leni Schwendinger Light Projects LTD.

All photos courtesy Andy Spain Photography except where noted.

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NightSeeing Video

NightSeeing Preview Part 1 – an online virtual briefing for participantsand Preview Part 2

Video of the actual LightWalk, Part 1 and here, Part 2

Night City with Leni Schwendinger

Other NightSeeing Resources

Blog articles, including Times Square, Lyon, Washington D.C.

NightSeeing Website, including guestbook


Leni Schwendinger's NightSeeing™ / Livable Cities, Lyon

Visual memories of December 2010 are clothed in a vapor of magenta pink.

During the famous ‘Fête des Lumières‘ in December 2010, Philips International Communications invited me to join their Livable Cities event. 

The event consisted of a panel, dinner and a LightWalk amongst the winding streets of Lyon to directly engage and educate international journalists on issues of lighting in the nighttime environment.

Leni Schwendinger's NightSeeing™ / Livable Cities Lyon

Lyon is the third largest city in France. It is located between two rivers—Rhône & Saône—and is defined by rocky cliffs, castles and Roman ruins.  Lyon’s Light Plan, the permanent illumination of more than 200 buildings and public places, was established in 1989. I had the opportunity to visit the city in 1995 and viewed the lighting strategy from which the  Lighting Urban Communities International organization, (LUCI), was born.

Fête des Lumières spans four days in early December each year. The celebration has grown into an international event, with light shows and exhibitions by international artists and students. Attendance is said to reach four-million visitors annually. Each year a color theme is implemented with filters on the streetlights. In 2010 the streets of Lyon were bathed in hues of magenta-pink.

Now, as I write these words of recollection, my internal vision of the city of  Lyon is drenched in this luscious color.

Leni Schwendinger's NightSeeing™ / Livable Cities, Lyon

For a week crowds wander the streets in families, pairs, groups chatting, and light-gazing as they drink the traditional beverage, mulled wine,
sold street-side .  As my companion observed, “I have never seen such crowds— except for sports or politics and here they all turn out for culture”.

NightSeeing™

The first step in the coordination of a NightSeeing™ LightWalk is the planning of the route.  Generally booked by a conference or educational organization,  in preparation, I dialogue with the local representative to devise a diverse, architecturally stimulating 10-minute itinerary— which becomes an hour-long when implemented on the Walk.  For the Fête des Lumières, planning counterparts were  Lyonnaise tour guide, Anne Prost, and adviser Alexandre Columbani, general manager of LUCI.

The festival has a sophisticated on-line presence with beautiful interactive maps and installation photographs. For weeks, I studied this swirl-framed program online program of the Fête.

This historic city is dense with alleys and pedestrian passageways paved with stones and lined with facades spanning the centuries. Selecting the route in a city founded by Romans in 43 BC — and now lauded for innovation is daunting! One challenge was to the LightWalk participants from the dense crowds; another was to include just a few spectacles. After all, an important concept for my LightWalk is the “normal”, typical nighttime light of the city.

Leni Schwendinger's NightSeeing™ / Livable Cities, Lyon

Highlights of the Route

I developed a tour starting at the Hotel De Ville (the local government seat). Alexandre, an inhabitant of Lyon, introduced me to the area known as Croix-Rousse, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in which silk weaving industry was introduced in 1536.   This industry shaped unique architectural forms, such as the traboules—public spiral staircases. Protesting the introduction of new technology that would cause unemployment, throughout the 19th century, the silk workers known as canuts  revolted and rioted.

Our guide Anne enumerated the local lore of the canuts and the  silk suppliers to all of us—describing 16th through 19th-century psycho-geographical atmospheres and other facts that defined this district.

Leni Schwendinger's NightSeeing™ / Livable Cities, Lyon

In the cold magenta night we gathered at the Roman Arena with its spiral of candles. We traversed up and down Lyon’s ubiquitous public  stairs to see illuminated fabric sculptures and stood on the edge of the public square viewing translucent structures back-lit with geometric projections; and gazed upon varied and colorful lit-up baubles suspended from trees, facades and fences.  More traditionally illuminated cathedrals and facades were also dotted along the route.   Between spectacles I indulged on of my professional and private passions—pointing out the pedestrian signals—civic “jewelry“ of the city night—brightly blinking, their pink and black grille-work shadows intermingling with the people who cast them, as well as the lighted shop windows and many other “found”, vernacular effects of the urban nighttime environment.

The Panel Debate

The panel  was located at the Philips Outdoor Lighting Application Centre in La Valbonne near Lyon. Starting of the day-long event, panelists Allan Stewart, Marco Bevolo, Dominique Mamcarz, Martin Lupton, Ken MacKenzie, Nicholas You, Rogier van der Heide, myself and Richard Griffiths, moderator, assembled in an intimate setting with reporters from media organizations from all over the world — including journalists from China, France, Italy, Korea, Singapore, Latvia, Spain and the United Kingdom —  in the varied fields of business, technology and planning.

Leni Schwendinger's NightSeeing™ / Livable Cities, Lyon

Panelists Marco Bevolo and Nicholas You

Per Richard Griffiths, the panel discussion focused on:

Urban Well-being – enhancing health and well-being through the provision of safer streets, Branding & Identity – driving tourism, commercial growth, inward investment and civic pride, Urbanization – the challenges of urban population growth, including urban clutter, balance with nature and energy efficiency.

Nicholas described a moment in his childhood when he had to use the illumination of the street light to do his homework.  Marco Bevolo stated that research is imperative to designed city strategies, and Allan Stewart (City Councilor in Glasgow) discussed “the power of light to unite people.”   My colleague, lighting designer, Martin Lupton discussed our discipline, observing that, “Lighting is engaging. It is a social medium and it has the power to transform lives.”

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In her follow-up article, What Makes a Great City, (Malaysia) Wan-Pen, a journalist-participant, discusses the panel as it relates to Asian cities;

“Haphazard planning, population growth and urban sprawl are taking a toll. If we continue at this rate, Asian cities would go the route of “maximum cities” where 20 million inhabitants (soon, this is the new “normal”) will fight for space to live, work and play.

“Light is playful. It has a sense of magic and people are attracted to light,” says Schwendinger, a New York-based lighting designer. Her forte is to use light in an imaginative and fun way that it serves as a catalyst to bring people together. “You can’t help it, you go towards the light.”

The message from the Lyon forum is simple: The only limit to creating great cities is your imagination. City planners, urban dwellers and governments all have a role to play by ensuring the development, projects and visions reflect exactly what the inhabitants want.

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All photos  ©Xavier BOYMOND

Link to Fête des Lumières; a NightSeeing™ LightWalk in 14th Century Lyon, Part 1

For other NightSeeing™ resources and posts on this blog – click here

For essays on public lighting theory – here.

For relevant videos Dwell Magazine, Night City with Leni Schwendinger

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