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.

 

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
Joan Grubin explains "Portal" to Leni

Joan Grubin explains "Portal" to Leni

I love the Mid-Manhattan Library on West 40th and Fifth Avenue, the poor  cousin to the 1911, iconic lion flanked  and landmarked white-marble Beaux-Arts revival Research Library building, across the street… which at times is referred to as the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, and more recently as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building designed by Carrère and Hastings.

The Mid-Manhattan Library, the destination of many a 4th floor  picture research foray,  is a limestone and granite building built in 1915.   In 1961 New York Public Library set its sights on 455 Fifth Avenue, and in 1970, the Mid-Manhattan officially opened — on the fourth through sixth floors above the The Arnold Constables Department Store.   In 1982 Mid-Manhattan took possession of the entire building, renovated by Artist/Architect Giorgio Cavaglieri. Today Mid-Manhattan  houses the largest circulating and reference collections in NYPL’s branches.

On Thursday early evening, the Light Projects staff and I walked over to the library, through Bryant Park, to visit Joan Grubin’s “Portal“, a perception-popping window installation.

grubin-image

Joan’s work is an adventure of paper, paint and light.  Her studies in reflection and texture have, in these public pieces, literally and optically deepened – the color and cut-outs lead the viewer to assume spatial relationships that change depending on vantage point and ambient light.

As we approached the library, the Portals glowed strongly, activated by the new 1 Bryant Park building as it reflected its urban beam of light onto the paper works.

Why worship?  Several years ago, arms filled with books and videos, I asked the clerk, “How many books may I check out”.  She answered sweetly, “As many as you need”.  It was then I fell in love with this generous mecca on Fifth Avenue.