Lighting


NightSeeing™ Washington D.C.
Can you find your way at night?

In the evening Washington D.C. NW is a monochromatic blend of light.

People are the action.

The shifting interplay of nighttime dark and light make every city a unique destination. Join acclaimed lighting artist and designer Leni Schwendinger and a group limited to 35 as she presents impromptu the D.C. nocturnal city of light, culminating at the ASLA Gala. This mistress of light sculpture and installation will decode the shadows, emanations, and reflections that define the nightscape, from shop silhouettes to the phantom photons of passing cars.

American Society of Landscape Architects’ Annual Meeting (2010)  invitation

Saturday, September 11 7:45–8:30 pm, LightWalk with Leni Schwendinger –Sold Out!

The NightSeeing™ LightWalk is conducted like a treasure hunt — a diverse group of participants searching for a fresh perception, a discovery of those lights and shadows, large and minute, to delight the mind and senses.  Or rephrased for planners, designers and landscape architects; an analysis of the character of lighting in any given place.

I began the tour with a quote from the artist/engineer/planner, Pierre Charles L’Enfant from September 11, 1789.  On that date he wrote to President George Washington “to solicit the favor of being Employed in the  Business” of designing the new capital city. His became a Baroque plan featuring open ceremonial spaces and oversized radial avenues with respect for the natural contours of the land.

With my intrepid group — landscape architects, designers and manufacturers from all over the country — I sought L’Enfant’s plan, lighting detail and filigree, and found a soft undifferentiated layer of light.

NightSeeing™ Washington D.C.

Public lighting — the lighting supplied by the municipality, business improvement district/CBD, utility, or institution in the United States — is generally “designed” by engineers and manufacturers.  An increasing trend, however, is to incorporate lighting designers onto streetscape design and engineering teams to revitalize districts, neighborhoods and communities.

City designs and plans, are strictly limited by regulations that are based on the primacy of the automobile (e.g. street lighting) and reducing risk , recommended brightness levels, maintenance and stocking issues, and the light pole and luminaire styles that manufacturers are currently marketing.

On the positive side, this is the light that we can depend on – the base lighting that allows residents, workers and visitors to feel comfortable sallying forth into the city’s night.   Public lighting is the threshold of light, upon which private and found lighting are layered.

NightSeeing™ Map Washington D.C.

NightSeeing™ Map Washington D.C.

We started our journey focused on the Historical Society’s colonnaded edifice floodlighting.  A traditional, uplighting method of  frontal illumination, this approach results in soft ambient glow.  Appropriate for classical buildings, and inexpensive.

Onward past rows of historicist streetlight lanterns.  Here, an effort could be made to differentiate street types and districts with varied types of poles, oh! a relief, the Chinatown lanterns with their red posts and lantern tops.

NightSeeing™ Washington D.C.

We went through the Techworld canyon and surprisingly found the same decorative luminaires, rather than lighting fixture forms referencing forward-thinking technologies, although, there was one difference, induction lamps are being used — a source that is white light and has a long lamp life, requiring less maintenance.

Some of the endearing details that we did find included count-down Walk/Don’t Walk signals, bracketed facade down-lights (cheap and easy), LED media signs and the colorful floodlit Chinatown gate.

NightSeeing™ Washington D.C.

The most exciting part of the tour were the people on it and the acceptance of the D.C. residents and tourists milling about — the sidewalks were packed on 7th Street NW that evening.  The small groups of loungers on the National Museum of American Art grand stairs were curious about the LightWalk and we in turn, discovered them using steps for the appropriate evening purpose… sitting in the floodlight of the stair and colonnade, a staple of light and architecture in our nation’s capital.

Leni Schwendinger’s LightWalk drew our members through the shadows of DC’s urban streetscape, guided by the eye of an artist and technician to experience the magical interplay of darkness and light.

— Clark Ebbert, Education Program Manager, ASLA

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For more illumination, reading and pictures:

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

Light Planning; Chinatown Little Italy Historic District

Accolades and Finales (and the Winter LightWalk)

Night City, The Movie

The Making of Night City

CultureNow is focused on cultural mapping and exhibitions about New York City. They called the other day and asked if I would talk about my work for their “Museum Without Walls” directory of podcasts.  The collection consists of first person discussions of art, architecture and other landmarks in the City.

Here are links to the podcasts:

Tidal Radiance

Tidal Radiance sculpture at Port Pavilion at Broadway Pier

Tidal Radiance, concept, custom glass, lighting design, projections

Coney Island Parachute Jump

Coney Island Parachute Jump Illumination

Coney Island Parachute Jump Illumination

Triple Bridge Gateway

Triple Bridge Gateway, Manhattan

Triple Bridge Gateway; concept, color, illumination

Dreaming in Color,

a Three-Dimensional Color Field

Dreaming in Color

Dreaming in Color, concept, materials, illumination

Free for New Yorkers of all ages:  A fantastical collision of Art and Science to hear gravity firsthand.

“Astronomy’s New Messengers: Listening to the Universe with Gravitational Waves”, an exhibition courtesy of the National Science Foundation and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration was on view June 2 through 6, 2010 .  This interpretive exhibition offered an up-close look at the work process of a dynamic group of over 800 physicists and astronomers worldwide who have joined together in the search for gravitational waves from the most violent astrophysical events in the Universe.

These scientific ideas are the basis for design throughout the exhibit from the undulating waveform shape of the space to the programming of the light sculpture and the graphic design.

The sound waves superimposed onto the rotating color palettes is revealed in the sculpture's 3D screen

LIGO, short for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, is a revolutionary new kind of telescope designed and built to observe, for the first time, ripples in the fabric of space-time caused by massive cosmic events. This amazing interactive exhibit featured a model interferometer with laser, a space-time curvature simulation, games to find the hidden gravitational wave in the static of the universe, even a mirror from the real LIGO. Overhead, Leni Schwendinger’s dazzling interactive light sculpture depicts the universe LIGO is trying to observe with a show of light and sound in real time.

Mock-up at the Light Projects Studio

“Astronomy’s New Messengers” is not only science.

The LIGO scientific endeavor is motivated by the same desire for exploration, the curiosity for the unknown and the awe of nature which motivated humankind throughout millennia of history. In this respect, science and art are two facets of the same human quest for beauty and truth”

explains Marco Cavaglia, Principal Investigator of Astronomy’ New Messengers and Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Mississippi.

Here, the start of installation in the Ballroom

Installation video on Light Project’s YouTube channel

To communicate the wonderment in our universe Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership and Leni Schwendinger Light Projects LTD, creatively re-interpreted the ideas behind the science of LIGO resulting in an immersive exhibit that encourages visitors in self-guided exploration.

Our goal and our hope is that the installation and the interactives faithfully convey the fascinating story of the quest to observe gravitational waves and what they will reveal to us about the history and nature of the universe.” relates Lee Skolnick, FAIA, Principal of LHSA+DP.

“We have attempted to interpret and evoke the spirit of these waves and the mystery of space-time; and embody them in the visitor experience.”

The exhibition’s design emphasizes the relationship between the light sculpture, the model interferometer acting as a real one, and the interaction of the visitor representing an event in the universe detected by the interferometer.

Light Projects was very excited by the opportunity to translate the search for gravity through our art medium, video and LEDS. Our light attracts people, young and old”, observes Leni Schwendinger.

Guests learn that gravity is a manifestation of the curvature of space-time and how LIGO scientists hope to see supernova explosions, black hole collisions, even the birth of the universe – the Big Bang – with a new set of eyes.

Left, Leni Schwendinger points out the finer details of interaction with young visitors, right, Marco Cavaligia explains the interferometer

Here, interactive designer, Ed Purver’s video documentation of the installation and visitors in action a must see!

All in all the exploration and blending of art and science was a tremendous experience for the designers which was passed along to a diverse audience, around 2,000 visitors, through light, color, and interactivity.

Light Planning and Community Involvement

Official map of the Chinatown Little Italy Historic District boundaries

Official map of the Chinatown Little Italy Historic District boundaries

The Chinatown Little Italy Historic District of New York City was designated in September 2009 by the National Register of Historic Places which allows building owners and community applicants to apply for grants to support the architecture and places of historic significance.

Known for its intersection of Italian and Chinese immigrant cultures, the new historic neighborhood is roughly bounded by Worth St., Lafayette St., E. Houston St. and the Bowery.

Two Bridges Neighborhood Council sponsored the application.

I am working with the Two Bridges organization to support the community in their quest to invite visitors and locals to the district by marking the area with wayfinding and lighting.  Both neighborhoods, and the adjacent newly emerging Nolita, are filled with restaurants and night life that is not easy to find unless you know exactly where to go!

Chinatown: existing conditions

Chinatown: Existing conditions

Existing conditions: Little Italy

Little Italy: Existing conditions

Light Projects is developing charrette and brainstorming techniques so that community members are enabled to focus on the after-dark experience of their districts and neighborhoods.

Community learns about light planning

This workshop technique translates into a lighting master plan, lighting strategy and/or lighting guidelines.

Goals and benefits of city lighting programs and master plans

Leni Schwendinger Light Projects' synopsis of goals and benefits of city lighting programs

The workshop for the the Chinatown Little Italy Historic District lighting session which was held April 19, 2010 is an example of our participatory approach.  The results will be compiled into a map and report to come later.

WORKSHOP AGENDA

1. Introduction to Light Projects LTD – what is a lighting designer?

2. A slide presentation including

  • Night City”, a movie about light at night
  • Introduction to goals and benefits of lighting strategies
  • Lighting applications
  • Little Italy/Chinatown Existing Conditions
Lighting research into Eight Shades of Night

Previous all-night research on the St. Patrick's Old Cathedral (Little Italy) area

3. Discussion:Historic District: What are the highest priorities for lighting in our neighborhood?  What are our lighting principles?

5. Group and Paired Mapping Exercise

  • How do visitors and locals travel to destinations and what are those routes like at night?
  • Highlight Subway Stops
  • Highlight Gateways (Are evening gateways different?)
  • Locate Nighttime Activities (parks, etc.)
  • Description of routes including areas of concern/opportunities
Community workshop

Stakeholder group maps nighttime experience

Acknowledgment and thanks to Robert Weber, Two Bridges; convener of the workshop and Wylie Stecklow; Nolita Neighborhood Association. Robert and Wylie took photographs of the charrette which appear in this article.

Related Links

Public Lighting Video Shoot

Public Lighting Theory

Night City – a seven minute movie about the night and its light

Imagine a non-profit’s gala fundraiser where the well-dressed and a population of dedicated black youth mingle with designers and artists guiding team paintings!

Notable guests included Mayor Bloomberg, his companion Diana Taylor and Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden

This living picture is reenacted every year for the annual Publicolor Stir Splatter + Roll party, silent auction and dinner to raise money to “engage disaffected teenage students in their education by involving them in adding color to all the public spaces in their schools”.

Light Projects has been contributing to this worthy and inspiring non-profit event for the last 10 years by designing the lighting for the gala and leading a team painting process.

Please consider joining us next year, read up on the programs and results of the Publicolor organization.

Benefit chandeliers with construction string lights and hula hoops transform the gym into an intimate space for dining!

Special thanks Light Projects’ Kristi Kent for creating our painting design, Joseph Legros for coordinating and painting and Eric Chenault for lighting design support.  Also to Mark Barton, friend of Light Projects, for on-site lighting focus.

Much has been written about the Atlantic Avenue tunnel since Bob Diamond rediscovered access through a manhole to the storied passageway in 1980. Diamond shares this body of knowledge on occasional tours of the tunnel, an exploration I was eager to take – a lighting designer underground for two hours without light, except for the jittering, swirling, white-to-blue light of portable flashlights.

For the photo essay, scroll down, to read the entire textual story, link to Urban Omnibus

Once on the concrete subway platform, intent on getting to Brooklyn on time, I lost all thoughts of the sidewalk, streets, buildings and people above.

Once on the concrete platform, intent on getting to Brooklyn on time, I lost all thoughts of the sidewalk, streets, buildings and people above.

We descended the narrow ladder through a metallic-rimmed manhole right in the middle of the street, almost in the crosswalk

We descended the narrow ladder through a metallic-rimmed manhole right in the middle of the street, almost in the crosswalk

The darkness begat dreaminess, with shadows on walls and ceiling and flashlight beams moving, searching for clues in the stone

Photos by flashlight

Bob regaled us with the amazing history of the tunnel: the transportation, geology, the methodological digging of seven months, the criminal, the politically unethical and mercenary, the gunfight, the pirates, the Smokey Hollow slum gangs, the mustard gas and five-foot rats — in short, the folklore and the facts.

The best part about this activity, I decided, would be experiencing a 165-year old excavation by the illumination of 70 flashlights.

The best part about this activity, I decided, would be experiencing a 165-year old excavation by the illumination of 70 flashlights.

The coppery, incandescent glow of the underground

Looking back from the monumental wall, the darkened passage is defined by glimmering archways, a coppery, incandescent glow shot onto the barrel vault by clear glass incandescent-filament bulbs – a cathedral of stone, brick and dirt.

I descended once again, this time to the A train platform, enjoying the solidity of the comparatively grand concrete and tiled stairway.

I returned to reality – the overground world of daylight and cold and then I descended once again, this time to the A train platform, enjoying the solidity of the comparatively grand concrete and tiled stairway.

As I walked home I found my view adjusted: manholes, drains, basements, vault covers — there is a world down there!

As I walked home I found my view adjusted: manholes, drains, basements, vault covers — there is a world down there!

The vertical layers of New York City arranged themselves in my mind’s eye – I will never take over- and underground passage for granted again.

Leni Schwendinger Light Projects’ recent projects win American Society of Landscape Architects awards.

In the General Design Category HtO Park in Toronto was Honored

“The landscape architect has helped Toronto reclaim its lakefront with strong, bold graphic moves. Summer is precious there and this project makes the most of it. It works just as well in the winter, it’s completely flexible.”

— 2009 Professional Awards Jury

The park is also iconic at night time due to its dramatic and colourful lighting scheme, which also ensures greater safety.

In the Analysis and Planning Category Trinity River Corridor Design Guidelines, Dallas, TX was graced with an Honor Award

“Beautiful forms and light handed. It held our attention. The diagrams convey the various layers of intervention and passive ecological processes. We really hope this is implemented.”

— 2009 Professional Awards Jury

Finale; Bryant Park Pond closing with Winter LightWalk

These were the final few days to visit New York City’s premier center city park in its festive decor – including our Jewel-Light Luminaire™ display on four towers surrounding the skating rink.  Bryant Park was also the location of my January 12 Winter LightWalk. e-Oculus covered the event and Contract Magazine was inspired to publish an interview.  And Night City, a LightWalk movie sets the night in motion.

Light Walk: sixty light afficiandos showed up on a cold, crisp evening. (Photos above right and left and below center and right; Robert Nadel)

The park is "moonlit" by floodlights from a neighboring building. The streetwall perspectives are sensational.

Features such as the Grill, fountain and light-edged trees enchant.

Carousel Photographs Robert Nadel

Way back in November I had an opportunity to speak at the opening celebration for Main Street Garden Park in Dallas.

Here, from our YouTube channel video from the ribbon cutting ceremony – at the podium, a short piece on the programming of  SpectraScape from October, and  SpectraScape. an interactive public artwork under construction from summer 2009.

For more information about the process of designing SpectraScape, a video artwork, please read more here.

Photos this page; Mark Strieter, Jeff Williams, and Mark Kramer

We arrived on a cold, turbulently windy day.  Snug and dry in the Admiral Hotel a converted waterfront warehouse, we fell asleep to the hum of wind gusts whipping down The Sound (“Øresund”) –a strait between the Kattegat and the Baltic Sea.  The Admiral is a few minutes walk along the waterfront to new the Royal Playhouse – its interior filled with an atmosphere of starlight, and a view across the river to the dramatically illuminated Copenhagen Opera House.

By evening’s light a walk into the center city; I wondered at the darkness – the catenary lights suspended over every street – and rare punctuations of facade and sign lighting.

Center for LYS (Center for Light) invited me to speak that their annual Lighting Day.  This year it was held at the ultimately modern Black Diamond – a conference and cultural center annexed to the “old Copenhagen Main Library” built in 1906.

In the center of the vast, open lobby there are two conveyors that stretch between the old and the new buildings.

Watch my Conveyor movie on the Light Projects YouTUBE channel (click here).

The Danish Lighting Center was founded in 1948 with a mission to “advance knowledge and to disseminate information for the improvement of the lighted environment to the benefit of society”. They hold seminars and conferences, and produce a magazine, LYS. Director, Kenneth Munck and  Dorte Gram, an architect who coordinated my invitation to the event and writes for the LYS Magazine, were both wonderful hosts.

I joined a dynamic international group of lighting designers and engineers, including Roger Narboni from France.  My topic was “Reclaiming the Dark Side of Town, an Underpass becomes a Gateway”; a comprehensive discourse on the making of Triple Bridge Gateway at NYC’s Port Authority Bus Terminal.  This project took eight years to complete, with Light Projects role encompassing illumination, color palette and collaboration on the materials for four bus ramps in midtown Manhattan.

Thankfully during the stay it warmed up and I wandered through the city — night and day — observing a massive population of bicyclists and pedestrians co-existing with vehicular traffic, visiting philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s grave and exploring light and the streetscape.

Mark and I visited the Rundetaarn “Round Tower” – a 17th-century tower located in the central district.  It was built as an astronomical observatory and now houses a multi-use cultural space – which showcased an interesting art show of urban signs.

A steep winding corridor of smooth polished cobble stones, with sunken windows and daylight effects upon stucco, leads to a ladder to the exterior observatory level and an expansive panorama of rooftops and industrial structures beyond Copenhagen proper.  The 360-degree city view was exhilarating.

Copenhagen is a city of Scandinavian modern and Scandinavian medieval.

From the observatory to the airport, I am enthralled by this northern sensibility.

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Interested in other international visits and my public space and lighting observations?

Here are posts from 2009:

China

Mexico

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.

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