Municipal Art Society’s “Jane’s Walk” West Village, May 5th 2012,was fun and invigorating. 

I was the “official” photographer and took my mission seriously, running ahead, falling back, click click click.  Get the shot.

Joan Schechter  is a pro tour-guide and she covered the architecture and history of the Village by the lights of Jane Jacob.

Jane's Walk 2012 - Photos by Leni Schwendinger

How did it happen that Michael Levine, Charlie Anderson and I veered of the path of the official walk and viola! began a sensational wander?

It started outside of 555 Hudson – do you recognize that address? It was Jane’s last home in the US, before leaving for Canada as a protest of the Vietnam War, and a way to save her son from the draft.  The kind current owner showed up at the front door – perhaps she heard the sounds of our group of 75 determined tour-ists?

At Janes house - Photos by Leni Schwendinger

As the group moved on to the wonders of West Village, some of us stayed on to discuss the building and her apartment.  Michael had visited Ms. Jacobs in 1967 and wondered about details: were the rooms still configured the way they had been, what about the roof garden?  Soon, the house owner offered a home view. Up we tramped on the narrow creaky staircase.

Janes house - Photos by Leni Schwendinger

Oohs and aahs, the original planked floor, the window where Jane made her observations, Micheal’s memory of cockroaches that lived there too (whose apartment did not have roaches at that time?).  All were discussed and photographed.

Jane's window - Photos by Leni Schwendinger

By the time we reached the sidewalk again our tour group had gone.  We tried to guess their track, and turned up Bleecker.  There, we discussed the merits of “obstructions” (the remnants of slate-sidewalk past), embedded relics of railings and tiny trap doors for coal.

Bleecker Street - looking down, Photos by Leni Schwendinger

We bemoaned the endangered species of Village life…

Endangered species of Village life - Photos by Leni Schwendinger

Our conversation unqualifiedly animated to find like-minds appreciative of the “nature” of urban accretion, we retired to Cafe Angelique for refreshment.

Cafe Angelique, photo by Leni Schwendinger

What was learned?  Urban planner Michael conflated my interest in Found Lighting to Found Seating. Architect Charlie shared his quest to walk all over the city at all hours of the night shooting photos of doors, building materials, people of all stripes and his upcoming blog on the same.

Found Seating - Photos by Leni Schwenidnger (and Michael Levine)

Seating? Photos by Leni Schwendinger

An all together satisfying New York City, nay, Manhattan experience, was had by all.

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The walk according to the New York Times: “One Jane’s Walk tour starts at the Christopher Street subway station in Greenwich Village, where Jacobs arrived after moving from Scranton, Pa., to pursue a writing career. Another sticks to Roosevelt Island, focusing on how it evolved from a purely institutional setting of mostly almshouses and hospitals into a planned residential community. You can explore the Rockaways in Queens or visit “Main Street U.S.A.” in Tottenville, on Staten Island.”

The listing by sponsor Municipal Art Society:

Jane Jacobs’ West Village

Time: 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Walk Host: Joan Schechter

Meeting Place: 7th Ave. South & Christopher St., in front of Village Cigar

Accessibility: Partially Accessible – curbs, uneven terrain, busy sidewalks

Description: In 1934, 18 year old Jane Jacobs arrived in NYC from Scranton to pursue a writing career. While exploring her new environs, she found herself at Christopher Street Station, and immediately began her love affair with Greenwich Village. Our tour will include the history of the area, woven with stories and relevant sights of Jane’s epic battles with city bureaucracy and the powerful Robert Moses to preserve her beloved Village. Walkers will visit Hudson Street, where she lived for 20 years, observing its daily ‘intricate sidewalk ballet’ that was the inspiration for her acclaimed first book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, as well as see several other historic sites that would not exist today if it were not for her successful grassroots activism.

Selected dérive posts in this blog:

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 (July 2009)

Dérive, a Cultural Week in Manhattan (May 2009)

*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

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

A launch to the season of golden slanting sun and naturally tinting leaves, here is a seasonal selection of commentaries voted the best at Light Project studio — a visually warm celebration of the coming cool weather.

It’s autumn in New York, The gleaming rooftops at sundown, Oh Autumn in New York, It lifts you up when you run down.  Glittering crowds and shimmering crowds, In canyons of steel, They’re making me feel – I’m home.

Leni Schwendinger's NightSeeing™ / Livable Cities, LyonLivable Cities: Walk with me in Lyon through magenta-pink immersed streets

Fête des Lumières; a NightSeeing™ LightWalk in Lyon

Leni Schwendinger stands by the Triple Bridge Gateway (for Dwell Magazine)

An interview about urban lighting of our city as room, the body; home to the heart. 

As You Light It: Dwell Magazine Video and Leni Schwendinger


Sackler Center, Brooklyn Museum; Judy Chicago's Dinner Party. Light Projects worked closely with Ennead architects.

2009 AIANY Design Awards include Brooklyn Museum’s Sackler Center

This interactive light/art/science sculpture is an public outreach artwork created to explain gravity.

Astronomy’s New Messengers: Listening to the Universe with Gravitational Waves

Publicolor is our favorite non-profit. We illuminate their benefit in a high-school gym annually.

Publicolor, Color is Energy

HTO Park and Bryant Park, two great urban public spaces.

Accolades and Finales (and the Winter LightWalk)

Triple Bridge Gateway, Manhattan

Light Projects objective: transform neglected infrastructure in our urban nighttime environments

Triple Bridge Gateway: Award and Lecture

Which is your favorite Leni Schwendinger, Fusing Art + Design with Light post?

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


The book reception at Center for Architecture on Thursday evening was sensational!

The line crawled out the door half the block down La Guardia Place… the seating once inside filled three spaces – the multipurpose hall downstairs, the mezzanine, and the library. All had projected video of the presentation held on the ground floor. The murmur and the luminaries present heightened the excitement of the launch of this three-year book project.

Produced in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, “High Performance Landscape Guidelines: 21st Century Parks for NYC” is the first document of its kind in the nation: a comprehensive, municipal design primer for sustainable parks and open space. The Guidelines cover every aspect of creating sustainable parks, from design to construction to maintenance, and feature hundreds of best practices for managing soil, water, and vegetation resources, as well as dozens of full-color photos and illustrations. — Design Trust for Public Spaces website

Luminaries; Nancy Owens, Charles McKinney, Deborah Marton, Nette Compton

Adrian Benepe, Commissioner of New York City Department of Parks and Recreation welcomed the audience and Deborah Marton, Executive Director of Design Trust, gave an impassioned speech about the process to institutionalize  sustainable standards for park design. She stated that the deeply comprehensive publication is the first of it’s kind.  This is the third set of guidelines from Design Trust.  The others are High Performance Building Guidelines (1999) and High Performance Infrastructure Guidelines (2005).  The primary authors are five Design Trust fellows – a team that includes landscape architects, a sustainability expert, and a water resource engineer: Michele Adams, Steven Caputo, Jeannette Compton, Tavis Dockwiller and Andrew Lavallee.

Charles McKinney,  Principal Urban Designer at Parks, a new role at Parks as of last year, was a moving force and champion of the project – with its 50 collaborators including landscape architecture firms, the NYC Parks Dept and Mayor’s office.  There were 40 peer reviewers.

David Bragdon from the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability discussed PlaNYC and how an interdisciplinary approach is the most sustainable.  His plea for high-performance for all – humans and other species – was eye-opening.

Jeannette Compton, a Senior Project Manager with Parks, was a primary author.  She reviewed the table of contents of this beautifully and colorfully designed book of 279 pages.  The chapters are based on linear process of design with varied access points.

Table of Contents

Part I: Context
Part II: Site Assessment
• Site Inventory & Analysis
• Site Types
Part III: Best Practices in Site Process
• Design
• Construction
• Maintenance & Operations
Part IV: Best Practices in Site Systems
• Soils
• Water
• Vegetation
Part V: Case Studies
Part VI: Next Steps

A pdf download is available at Design Trust.

Jeremy Barring is the Parks Department’s Capital Projects arborist. This is another new job at Parks, which started in 2008.
He emphasized that;

Trees provide more benefits as they get bigger. And that trees come up in almost every section of the book!

Stephen Koren, a landscape architect with the Parks Department authored the playground site type.  He reviewed a playground that had not been improved in 60 years and discussed the ways that each material was “chosen through a filter of sustainability”.

Nancy Owens, landscape architect, principal of her own firm, discussed the development of Fort Totten in Bayside, Queens, as a case study for sustainable design (althougth the book was not available when the park was designed).  This 149-acre peninsula includes Civil War–era fortifications, and the eight-acre section that was designed by Nancy Owens’ firm, North Park, was former WWI military site.  The military buildings were demolished to create a beautiful park.  When the book was published Nancy highlighted items in book that were relevant – from my view of the screen it looked like more than 3/4s of the checklist had been used for the Fort Totten project.  She feels that the book is scalable and will be very  useful for all park designers.
She stated that,

The natural history of the site is important, not just military history.

When the first trees were planted the ambient sound changed… with birds & butterflies – almost a miracle within a day.

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The book is hardback and available at Amazon.


On the evening of December 9th I will be viewing the City of Lyon from the hilltop of Croix-Rousse. The city has layers upon layers of visible history from ancient to very modern. It will be a pleasure to present the light and shadows of Lyon to the exclusive attendees of Philips Livable Cities Initiative in the NightSeeing™ style.

Lyon is home to the Lighting Urban Communities International organization.  This city hosts one of the most sophisticated and spectacular light festivals in the world.

Leni Schwendinger at the Light Projects' Studio (for Dwell Magazine)

Dwell Magazine’s series, As You Light It <link here>, focuses on my idea of the City as home and the NightSeeing™ program. The video takes the viewer on a journey starting in the Light Projects LTD studio and on to the far west side of Manhattan, Triple Bridge Gateway at the bus terminal, Times Square and Bryant Park.

Link to learn about my Public Lighting Theory and walk with me (and the camera) on Night City, a movie.