Nighttime Design_three pillars
Why Nighttime Design?

The night has the power to invoke a myriad of emotions — from fear to romance, melancholy to excitement. Whatever your feelings, the fact remains that the nighttime consists of half of our time on this earth, and that means half of our time in our cities as well. What can we do to ensure that our cities are truly taking advantage of their 24-hour needs? What does it mean to design for nighttime?

In this episode we talk with Leni Schwendinger, an expert on nighttime design and Director of NightSeeing (and so much more!), on the many types of light, what to do on a light walk, and how to take a holistic look at our cities’ daily light cycles.

The 54-minute podcast: Episode 36: Nighttime Design w/ Leni Schwendinger (link)

20170623 ReSITE-141317

Here, a six minute audio lesson on nighttime design urbanism: an interview by Monocle: The Urbanist, while at reSITE, in Prague, June 2017. “We can look back to Guy Debord… The freedom to wander… looking for the ambience. Nighttime design is the broader discipline where urban lighting leads the way…”

We caught up with Schwendinger, one of the world’s leading voices on the impact lighting can have in our cities. (link) 

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

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



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.

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

The past two months have been hectic, filled with travel, talks, awards, movies and a steady flow of work at Light Projects.

It seems like an annual sequence of visits to Copenhagen Center of Lys Mexico and Scandinavia has been established.  My entry on the October 15th CIHAC Sustainable Lighting conference in Mexico City can be found here.  Left, November 5th, on stage in Copenhagen, Center for Lys. A larger collection of this city’s images and movies to be posted soon.

After that it was a whirlwind tour – On November 13th to Dallas for the Main Street Garden Park ribbon cutting – here is a tiny movie that sums up the project on the new Light Projects’ YouTube channel.

From Dallas it was a short trip, on the 14th to Louisville to meet new Light Projects collaborators, CARMEN landscape architects, for a streetscape and underpass project adjacent to the new arena, and to create a new gateway to the wonderful Hargreaves-designed waterfront.  More to come on this as we move through the concept phase.

Back to New York City for a breath of metropolitan air, I gave a presentation to the Professional Lighting Design Association on LightMapping on November 18th, then off to Boston to speak on a panel for Build Boston.  I joined fellow Society for Design Administrators on a panel; Business Manager – Hire, Fire or Inspire on the 19th of the month.

Lightmapping NYC-Shades of Night Study

Hopped on Amtrak, for another weekend home in the Big Apple, leaving in the wee hours Monday, November 23rd to travel to Fort Worth, Texas for a feasibility study presentation for Starry Trail Crossing, Light Projects’ new commission for a public art sculpture to be integrated on the replacement bridge at West Seventh Street.

Upon return to New York City, Interior Design Magazine informs that Light Projects’ colorful infrastructure project, Triple Bridge Gateway has been selected for a Merit Award (an outdoor luminous room?). Recipients and friends congregated at the swanky party held at the Guggenheim Museum on December 3.

Jewel-Light Luminaire (TM)

Coming soon, Wednesday, December 9th, the Jewel-Light Luminaire (TM) launch.  Culminating a four year development of an LED globe lighting fixture, Leni Schwendinger Light Projects has teamed up with Lighting Science Group to commercialize the product.  I envision these pearls-with-diamonds-inset on bridges, towers, building tops – creating sparkling joyful environments – whether infrastructural or architectural.

Next… bring on the holidays!

Born to go to Mexico City, “La Capital”

LS-Aztec_inspired

Leni aspired to Mexicana status, here pictured in red dress with Aztec-inspired embroidery

Growing up in Los Angeles Spanish language study started in 5th grade.  We created our own Spanish books – mine was over-sized with a hard cover surfaced in canvas and splatter paint.  the binding was tied with leather thong.  In my imagination, Mexico was associated with music, rich colors, copper metal, a land of deserts, carvings and people who were so fascinating that they spoke a different language than me.  I had a wish to be Mexicana.  Above all I wanted to visit Mexico City.

So, when Jeffrey Miller, President of IALD texted a request from China about my interest in speaking on City Beautification in Mexico City I was thrilled!

This city of great layered history — and pre-history –was opened to me through the inimitable process of Dérive, with my constant companion and explorer, Mark Kramer.

Ciudad de México is inhabited by 8,836,045 inhabitants (2008 figure, Wikipedia) and Greater Mexico City has a population exceeding 19 million people, making it the second largest metropolitan area in the Americas and the third largest agglomeration in the world (Wikipedia).

IALD Conference on Sustainable Design at CIHAC

Convention Center

Expo CIHAC (Centro Impulsor de la Construccion y la Habitacion) was held on October 13-17th, 2009 at the Banamex Convention Center, Mexico City.  The Expo is the most important construction exhibition in Mexico. It gathers together project developers, contractors, consultants, engineers and building material suppliers.  This year CIHAC partnered with IALD (International Association of Lighting Designers) to hold a Conference on Sustainable Design.  Mexico’s IALD chapter sponsored the event.  It was a great opportunity to meet with my south-of-the-border colleagues.

The Banamex Convention Center is adjacent to the Americas Horse Racetrack.  Upon arrival we were mesmerized by the trotting horses out for practice.  I joined North American lighting design colleagues Charles Stone and  Mark Loeffler at the podium.

Charles discussion of White Light in Public Lighting was the perfect counterpoint to mine, with its focus on colored light.  Mark’s LEED and Lighting Design walked the audience through the ever more complex arena of “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” and how lighting applies. Mark also spoke on Daylighting Design.

CIHAC Speakers

My topic City Beautification, The Use of Color and Light posits that the use of colored light in the urban environment has exploded.  With the continued development of LED sources the lighting designers’ paintbox has been redefined and colored light is not only technically more possible than in the past, but the technologies are more energy-saving  and sustainable in terms of maintenance.  In this talk I address “by what measure can designers agencies and owners rate the applicability of colored light in the city environment?”  I review the artistic use of color and how to judge good design using color theory, case studies and a checklist. Here, a link to the hand out.

Walking the Streets

Walking is knowing a city…

View here a video of an animated Walk signal, and a great sense of Mexican traffic engineering humor, the Don’t Walk signal – with a person impatiently tapping his foot and consulting a wristwatch as the seconds tick by… to walk.

Envision the experience of the street through the moments that captured me and and in turn are captured by my camera.

Medians and Malls

streetscape

Paving Patterns, Shadows, Light and Textures

Paving

Street Corners

corner

Lighting Fixtures and Side Streets After-dark

mex_lighting

The Zócalo, la Plaza Suprema

Urban planners and designers are ever questing for the perfect recipe for town squares and plazas. Mexico City’s Zócalo — Plaza de la Constitución — is a prime reference – often mentioned in discussion of urban landscape design.

Zocalo_area

Streets branching off the Zocalo

At long last, I was able to visit — see, sense, feel — the genuine article — the authentic plaza, the Zócalo.  I was fascinated by the shared space of pedestrians, cars and bicycles and delivery carts.  Even on a weekday, the sidewalks and streets were packed.  “Shared streets” or “shared space” is a traffic engineering concept to remove separations between vehicles and pedestrians, and devices such as curbs, painted lines, signs and signals. The logic is that humans can be self regulated when forced to…an interesting civic pact.  It felt, here on the main square streets, that the concept of shared streets had not been enforced or planned but simply an authentic need had been fulfilled — that of a huge metropolis and its circulation evolving.

The Zócalo Edge; Metropolitan Cathedral

(Catedral Metropolitana de la Asunción de María)

Catedral Metropolitana

Because of its rich natural, archeological and architectural sites Mexico ranks within the top countries with the most UNESCO World Heritage sites.  As we walked toward the Zócalo through the busy foot traffic, jewelry and watch stores, cafes and restaurants and sidewalk markets our eyes gravitated naturally to the Metropolitan Cathedral which defines the north edge of the plaza.  Its ornate carvings of stone and wood bursts out of the facade beckoning visitors.

The Cathedral is the largest and oldest cathedral in the Americas. It is sited upon a sacred Aztec precinct near the Templo Mayor. The cathedral was built around a church that was constructed after the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán — the Aztec’s capital city (1573 to 1813) — and finally replaced the church. The Metropolitan was inspired by Spain’s Gothic cathedrals.  Its Baroque-style facade and 64-meter high Neoclassical-style towers contain 18 bells.

The ethereal glow of the ornate interior reveals five naves, several chapels, two impressive pipe organs, religious paintings and figurines.  The decor, whispered hush and flicker of candles conspire to create a time/space wonderment.

The Zócalo Edge; Templo Mayor

templo_mayor_plaque

“Next door” to the Cathedral is the Templo Mayor (Great Temple)

The Aztec legend describes the siting of the Temple as a fulfillment of a prophecy; where an eagle was seen perched on a cactus devouring a snake.

Construction began around 1325 AD and the Temple was continually enlarged over the next two centuries. A the time of the Spanish Conquest, in 1521, the temple was the center of this Tenochtitlan, with a population of 300,000.

The temple was nearly destroyed by the Spaniards after their conquest of Tenochtitlan.

The Templo Mayor excavation began 30 years ago after electrical tradesmen discovered the ruins.

Templo Mayor Mexico City

Two life-size clay figures from this trove represent the two faces of Aztec religion. A winged warrior, his head poking out from an eagle’s beak, with talons erupting from his knees, symbolizes life or the sun at dawn. Discovered only a decade ago, a grisly, six-foot-tall, clay figure – with his liver dangling beneath exposed ribs – represents death. Both were revered. The equal value of life and death explains “why the images of death are so strong,” says Felipe Solís, curator and the foremost authority on the Aztecs. “At Mexico City’s core beats an Aztec heart”  — Carol Strickland, Christian Science Monitor

Culture

Museo Nacional de Antropología

Museo de Anthropologica

On our way to the Museo de Anthropologica we strolled through Chapultepec Park.  A large scale photo exhibition mounted on an iron fence was composed of provocative images in billboard style.   The Museum, in mid-century modern/Mexican style, is stunning – the sleek lines interrupted by pattern and relief.  The first gallery was a contemporary take by several artists, on Mexico City and its populous.  Salvage materials, video, industrial homage and individual stories tell the life of the lesser known Mexicano.

The monumental collection is humbling.  Here, another chance to experience the ancient, this time through a curated collection.

culture

Left: billboard photo exhibit, Center: View of Chapultepec, Right: the Kahlo-Rivera House-Study

Lighting designer Gustavo Aviles, and his wife Magi, took us to dinner at the Colonia San Ángel Inn. After an evening of laughter and conversation they surprised us by pointing out the Kahlo/Rivera House-Study right across the street. The intense and creative couple — Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera — painted and housed their skull collection, as well as pre-Columbian art and Mexican crafts here.

The complex, two buildings connected by a bridge, is one the most important cultural landmarks of Mexico City. It was designed by Juan O’Gorman — an architect and painter.  It is a a merging of modern Mexican architecture and the International style.

The work caused a heated controversy in the 1930s by combining organic Mexican architecture and architectural murals with functionalism. So was the breaking of all the aesthetic paradigms of architecture in Mexico until then, to incorporate such blunt theories and thoughts as most avant-garde architects (as Le Corbusier) were developing on the European continent. Thoughts such as the rational use of materials, analysis of the functioning of ideal spaces and the adequacy of them to accommodate activities that took place within them – ideas that were radical at first but eventually were assimilated into the worldwide architectural community. These houses were made possible with minimum cost and effort.

Diego Rivera Studio Museum was established by presidential decree in 1981, opening its doors in 1986. In 1994, the INBA made the restoration and rehabilitation of houses a cultural heritage site of the nation, according to the decree published in the Diario Oficial on March 25, 1998. — Wikiarquitectura.com

I heartily recommend the movie Frida Kahlo directed by Julie Taymor for the flavor, color and sounds of a time in Mexico. And here a link of the real Frida and Diego.

La Capital is an exemplar of metropolitan life, and I like to think that my explorations have just begun.

Guangzhou (广州市区)

The Guangzhou International Lighting Exhibition and its concurrent Guangzhou International Lighting Technology Symposium was held on 9 – 12 June 2009. Organized by the lighting-focused event planners Messe Frankfurt with Chinese partner YangGuang Lighting Service (YGLS). This trade fair is one of the Messe’s seven lighting, electrical and building technology fairs held around the world, including Frankfurt, Middle East and Buenos Aires.

Pazhou Complex

The show and symposium were staged in the undulating, metallic buildings of the China Import and Export Fair Pazhou Complex (中国进出口商品交易会琶洲展馆), built in 2002. The fairground was designed by the Japanese architectural firm of AXS SAWTO and developed by the Architectural Design and Research Institute of South China University of Technology.

The Complex is especially known for the Canton Fair (Chinese Import & Export Fair) which is held twice a year in Spring and Autumn since it was inaugurated in the Spring of 1957. Guangzhou, the center of the Pearl River Delta manufacturing powerhouse and close to provincial exporting bases. After 52 years’ development… the Canton Fair has become a comprehensive international trade event in China with the longest history, the largest scale, the most complete exhibit variety, the broadest distribution of buyers, the biggest buyer attendance, and the greatest business turnover, and the soundest credibility, enjoying the reputation of “China’s No.1 Fair”.

— Wang Junwen; Secretary General of China Import and Export Fair & Director General of China Foreign Trade Centre

My Talk: Color and Light: Humanizing the Urban Nighttime Environment

I was invited to speak in the Sustainable Development in the Lighting Industry; LED track. Dr. Vincent Chen, Senior Application Engineer from OSRAM China Lighting moderated.

Slide Show

The subject: The use of colored light in the urban environment has exploded. Now with LED (Light Emitting Diodes) the lighting designers’ paint-box has been redefined. Colored light is not only more possible, but is energy-conscious and sustainable in terms of maintenance. However, by what measure can designers, agencies and owners rate the applicability of colored light in the open, public environment. In this talk I reviewed the artistic use of color, and proposed a system of judging good designs with using color theory, case studies and a check-list. 

Please view and print my handout here (click on this link).

China_lecture_collage02

The lecture was well attended. The audience was comprised of lighting designers and engineers, architects, manufacturers, artists and students. The Q&A was lively.  My favorite question — from a student — passionately delivered — concerned China’s current preoccupation with “too much color” and “too much animation”.

Afterward, I joined “From Inspiration to Implementation” a panel of  owners (the government), engineers, and architects…and two lighting designers, including myself. Subjects ranged from questions of creativity through issues of implementation–addressed by each and every participant from varied vantage points. Here I learned that in China a project life span of two to five years is a normal expectation for buildings, or at least for the lighting of buildings in China and so, the expectation of longevity and quality are not the same as in the US – which hovers in the 25-year duration.

people01

As an aspiring linguist, it is fascinating to think in a new language — structure and syntax reveals the inner spirit of culture…however my grasp of Mandarin has yet to be realized.  Thanks to interpreter Jasmine Shi, I was able to understand normal course of conversations, and as well as probing mysterious-seeming motivations and activities. I was fortunate to meet lighting design colleague from Taiwan, Ta-Wei Lin. He has a great sense of humor (a prerequisite for good lighting designers) and it was a pleasure to speak in rapid English over biscuits and team upstairs in the conference mezzanine.

Lighting fixture rarities

Lighting fixture rarities

Time was short between lecture and panel. Jasmine and I rushed through the trade show floor. The products I saw were highly decorative – sparkle ruled the day at this trade show. A beginner in the Chinese market it was hard to understand who the important players are.

Pearl River Cruise

An evening cruise on the Pearl River (珠江) – the third longest in China revealed the student’s issue of “too much” color and animation. Blocky buildings were dressed in gaudy garments of light – dancing, blinking and morphing. A laser effect swept the river. The shore was edged in bright blue light.

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Part 2Hangzhou to Suzhou: From the Elegant (Grand Canal) to the Sublime (Lion Forest Garden)

Part 3 – Shanghai: Simultaneously Chrysalis and Butterfly

Part 4Shanghai Post-Script: Ancient Town Park