Nighttime design and its concomitant Shades of Night analysis were born out of the NightSeeing™ Program

Charles Lane
Charles Lane, light and shadow observations

During the dark hours, a nexus of walking and observing living city streets  — at once intuitive and self activated — merged into a performative and philosophical practice.

2009: 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.

As you have read in this blog – urban nighttime is illuminated by public, private and found lighting.

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. 2009

The phenomenological – reflections and sparkle – glint as figures of found light against the background of mono-typical fields of sodium yellow streetlighting, and more recently as a blinkingly, blindingly white-grey saturation.

NightSeeing 82nd Street Partnership

82nd Street NightSeeing™/Envisioning 2012

How long does it take to synthesize disparate focuses — lighting, city life, community engagement — into a meaningful body of work? Three years, five years? A decade?

Smart Everyday Nighttime Design, international research accomplished with Arup, and partners such as London School of Economics, Despacio and iGuzzini, among others, was a recent culmination of the Light Projects’ 2012-2013 82nd Street Partnership Lighting Strategy: A Roadmap for Illumination and Community-Building.

Nighttime design research

Smart Everyday Nighttime Design, Cartagena

Envisioning the future of nighttime design.

What does your city – or neighborhood – need?

Near future vision: nighttime design teams composed of urbanists and city activators will form bespoke core consultant groups for specific urban regeneration projects. For example, those agencies, developers, associations revitalizing the nighttime economy in one district may need, along with urban lighting, public health and retail consultation.

Another neighborhood might benefit from urban and landscape designers, policy experts and sustainability consultants. Perhaps night visibility, traffic and pedestrian conflicts are a primary concern.  What about addressing the district’s upgrade to LED streetlighting along with a digital platform for seasonal lighting transformations, or for a cultural nighttime district where tourism and branding awareness is important…there is a team for that!

OPEN Sydney

Sydney nighttime strategy

 

 

 

Cities and districts may desire to create broad nighttime guidelines such as the excellent OPEN Sydney Strategy and Action Plan (pdf). It addresses nighttime economy, tourism, and diversity, among other important issues for international cities.

 

 

 

 

NightTube and Night-time commission

London’s Night Tube and Night Time initiative

 

 

 

Another current example is the concerted effort by the London Mayor’s office and Transport for London.  Transport rolled out the spectacular “Night Tube” campaign in August 2016, followed by the inauguration of a Night Time Commission which resides in the Mayor’s office.

 

 

Here, I have shared the process of envisioning a practice and the lurching tiny, and grand, steps that must be made in service of growth. A new understanding of illumination combined with urban design is becoming official, ensconced in city governance, which for theorists and practitioners alike establishes a context for the varied ways to improve lives — in our turbulently urbanizing world.

 

 

met20

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.

 

blog pic

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.

Nightwalking, A Nocturnal History of London, by Matthew Beaumont.

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The book arrived bedside and surely it “…shines a light on the shadowy perambulations of poets, novelists and thinkers…”(from the publishers, Verso Books).

In the  484-page tome the writer investigates the intrigues of night culture from the renaissance to mid-19th century or in authorial time — from Chaucer to Dickens.

With his own poetic voice, Mr. Beaumont examines the darkness of penury and ‘houselessness’, the roguish elite — ramblers, wanderers and vagrants — and introduces the reader to the “noctambulant and the noctivagant, or common nightwalker”.

He ends the book with a quote from Edgar Allan Poe that starts many of my talks, which I now share with you.

Then we sallied forth into the streets, arm in arm, continuing the topics of the day, or roaming far and wide until a late hour, seeking amid the wild lights and shadows of the populous city, that infinity of mental excitement which quiet observation can afford.


For more bibliographic resources link here.

Guy Debord’s Theory of the Dérive has been instrumental for my life as a citizen-walker. From the Bureau of Public Secrets,  “… dérive, a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiences. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.

An assembly of posts highlighting a facet of 21st century night walking – and passage:

Islington After Dark, A London Light Walk 

Leni Schwendinger Lights the Way

Public Lighting Theory – developing the nexus of lighting and urban design

Mexico City,  Las Calles y Luz de “La Capital”

Public Lighting Walk with Leni

Dérive, a Cultural Week in Manhattan

Dérive, a Cultural Week in Manhattan 

Do you read?

Here, this list is for you: publications on urban design, historical light, stories of sleep, nocturnal narratives, the power of disorder and heterogeneous spaces and places, wrapped in a frame to consider when designing illumination for cities.

Leni Schwendinger's Eclectic Bibliography: Nighttime Design

Two more books released in 2015

Cities of Light, Two Centuries of Urban Illumination

Cities Alive, Rethinking the Shades of Night

Cities of Light, Two Centuries of Urban Illumination can be purchased from Routledge Press.

For a free download of Rethinking the Shades of Night, visit the Arup night-time website.

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

City Light Guide, a free mobile app by Philips has just been released.

Link to Android City Light Guide  &  Apple City Light Guide apps

Here, visitors and inhabitants of Barcelona, Berlin, London, New York, Paris, Rotterdam, Shanghai, Sydney and Tokyo are invited to follow routes — through  photographs and narrative — put together by lighting designers including Paula Rainha from Portugal, Thomas Wensma from Netherlands and myself.

This is a new approach to describing  international cities through lighting: written, photographed and mapped, or as the City Light Guide App describes;

Unlike any other guide, this will show you the location, give advice on how to get there and give you a history of some truly inspirational lighting productions…Featuring light installations, buildings and works of art…

My contribution New York City — a sliver of Manhattan– is an easy walking tour.  No fuss, no transportation.

Leni Schwendinger's Times Square at Night

A 360-degree view of Times Square and its private light phenomena and then on to Bryant Park.

  1.  Times Square: North end: TKTS, Buildings, billboards
  2.  Times Square: South end; Buildings, billboards
  3. View of One Bryant Park (Bank of America Tower)
  4. 42nd Street grand stair entrance to Bryant Park – Torchere, American Radiator Building
  5. Bryant Park -the northern path:
  6.  View east to the Chrysler Building/1930,
  7. South to the Bryant Park Hotel (American Radiator Building/1924)…
  8. … and Empire State Building/1931
  9. Look South – 42nd street view corridor.
  10. Bryant Park: East Allee: view southward to Bryant Park Hotel (American Radiator Building).
  11. Bryant Park: Le Carrousel
  12. Bryant Park: Fountain with view upwards to the…
  13. … Moonlights mounted on the 1095 Avenue of the Americas building, built for New York Telephone in 1974

Leni Schwendinger photo of Bryant Park

The app narrative is rigorously to the point and brief, here, some beloved outtakes:

New York City’s borough of Manhattan has been celebrated and embellished in the all of the arts, high and low – song, cinema and poetry. Consequently much of the world “knows” this uniquely dense metropolitan island. With a population of over 16-million within 59 sq. kilometres, historically, the city has attracted immigrants worldwide, leading to a richness of cultural diversity reflected in distinct neighbourhoods, cuisine and languages spoken. Prior to the appearance of the Dutch in 1609, “Manna-hata” was populated by the Lenape Indians. Since the late 19th century the Manhattan skyline’s iconic skyscrapers have shaped its identity. Today, the city is known for architecture, fashion, the arts, and financial activities. As the “city that never sleeps” it is a perfect candidate for a Light Guide.

Leni Schwendinger photo for City Light Guide

Times Square has been called the “crossroads of the world”. Perceptually there are now two crossroads within Times Square.  One, the actual crossover of Broadway and Seventh Avenue (between West 44th and West 45th Streets), by the diagonally crossing avenues, and, two, a folly, a grand stairway of glass at West 47th Street. The observation deck doubles as a rooftop for the TKTS discount Broadway theatre ticket booth. This landmark employs cutting-edge technology for lighting and mechanical systems (including geo-thermal heating). LED arrays concealed in the steps create a saturated unmistakable red glow. The grand “stairway to nowhere” is a huge success, fully occupied by New Yorkers and tourists alike.

Leni Schwendinger photo for City Light Guide

In 1686 the area which is now Bryant Park was designated as public space. Subsequently a graveyard (1823) then Reservoir Square (1847), it was renamed Bryant Park in 1884 for newspaper editor and abolitionist William Cullen Bryant. In 1899, the Reservoir structure was removed for the construction of the adjacent and underground New York Public Library. The park was re-designed in the 1930’s as a Great Depression public works project. In 1969, a famous rally was held as part of the nationwide Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, and then in the mid-seventies the park became derelict. In the 1980’s through advocacy and formation of a Business Improvement District the park was redesigned and renovated.

Leni Schwendinger photo

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Pivot to a recent think-tank experience with LAND Studio to discuss the visitor experience of this great industrial, mid-western city.

I arrived the evening before and commenced photographing – this is what I do!

My handy iPhone, iMovie editing-app called out: “try me“.

So I did.  And the next day eyes opened to the vernacular and artistic figures of light in Cleveland.

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For other cities’ subject videos, photos and text; see articles in this blog: CITIES!