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  • Light: Power, Inspire, Play

    Into darkness, the artistry of light proclaims a special power to inspire and encourage the best proclivities of our built environment.

  • Urban Braids in Progress in Flatbush Brooklyn

    On June 3, 4, and 5 Chris and I spent midnight work shifts so common for urban lighting. This time supervising prepared string and rope -light while the strands were suspended by Friedman Productions. The subway train splits Newkirk Plaza into 2 walkways lined with gritty retail and restaurants. Looking up from Brooklyn’s Newkirk Plaza subway platform, the straphanger will exclaim, I have arrived! Also looking down from the Plaza, Urban Braids presents a carnivalesque sight against the smooth subway platform illumination. A strange juxtaposition. D.I.Y. Lighting is braided, twisted string lighting made by local community.

  • The Evolution of Community Engagement- where are we now?

    Community Engagement: Beyond the Survey A 2-Way Street What is your view about community participation in public space design? Community design approaches are evolving through best-practice methodologies, including pilots, research, and hands-on co-creation. Lighting designers, learning from outreach program specialists, are transforming the predominant view that involving community or space-users results in mediocre design. We believe that real involvement is a reciprocal knowledge transfer. Designers provide active learning scenarios to elicit local insights. Residents, workers and stakeholders inform designers about place-keeping legacies, priorities, and geographic/socially based genius loci with which designers can develop the best public spaces even after dark! Water above Water, a Sublime Floating Landscape (Glasgow, Scotland) An early, temporal, community-engaged project In 1999 Leni was offered an opportunity to blend environmental artwork and social engagement. Site specificity is an approach that landscape architects and public artists use to make a space into a place. Design factors include the site's histories, the culture, geography, and other threads. Leni's background as a community organizer and lighting designer merged for Water Above Water. "A sea of luminous blue, green and aquamarine floodlighting dissolved and animated the stern, hand-hewn stone of the aqueduct's buttresses and arches." — Architectural Review (UK)

  • Inspiring Invitations & Introductions: Meet Light Projects' Exceptional New Project Manager!

    JOIN US! For the Newkirk Plaza Art Launch For the first time, visitors will experience Hands of the Sun on view in the Newkirk/Marlborough tunnel plaza entry. The 7-foot diameter mosaic, created by artist John Sear, transforms the dark, narrow space. The opposite wall has been adorned over time with complex collages of mirror, ceramics and objects by artist Juan Carlos Pinto with community members and OYE Studios. The new work and mural celebrate the boundless diversity of the cosmos and our community’s unity and spirit.

  • Bridging the Gap Between the Sun and Moon, No Special Glasses Needed

    The solar eclipse on April 8, 2024 brought the sun and moon’s powerful relationship to the fore. That day their universal relationship dramatically changed. The moon’s opaque form blocked the Sun’s fiery gases casting a sweeping shadow, not by night, the moon’s perceived temporal home, but by day. During a solar eclipse, the Earth’s water bodies create spring tides. Watch the video to learn about tidal phenomena caused by the dance of these heavenly bodies. Sun...and Moon, a Public Art Proposal Conceptual Design for a Bascule Bridge E. Clay Shaw Jr. Bridge, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida To recap the dynamic lighting described in the video... Envision the glow of sunset and sunrise colors suffusing the bridge surfaces. Imagine shades of blue ebbing and rising on the unique piers synchronized with the moment's tidal states. There are two high and low tides per day: spring and neap. They vary in intensity based on the relative position of the moon & sun. King tides are amplified spring tides. Learn more in the video. Under the crossing, on land, immersive, illuminated environments would attract visitors, residents and local workers to play in massive color swathes or simply to rest on benches. THREE MAIN POINTS Connection: For residents of South Florida, the connection to nature, water, wildlife, plants, and sun is ever-present. The proposed Everyone Under the Sun... and Moon installation seeks to amplify this relationship through large-scale visual representation. Site-Specifc: Luminous color displays will be triggered by tidal states and relevant calendars - real-time and site-specific. People: Light Projects’ standard methodology includes not only award-winning, aesthetic, bridge lighting design but also community and stakeholder engagement.

  • Envisioning Community Engagement in Smart Lighting Design

    The 8th International Light Symposium: Re-thinking Lighting Design in a Sustainable Future in Copenhagen, Denmark, met in September 2022. The conference proceedings have been published and are open source: IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science. I was honored to co-write with Philip Ross. We presented in the Urban Lighting and Sustainability track. Read the full text article below or online: Envisioning Community Engagement in Smart Lighting Design. Key words, community and smart lighting may seem like an oxymoron. However we prove not. Urban lighting is a relatively new discipline for study and practice. Here are a few highlighted articles for my urban lighting and nighttime design followers: Lighting inequality in an urban context: design approach and case studies, the authors are excellent community-based lighting practitioners. This presentation The effect of non-uniform urban illumination upon pedestrians' alertness and sense of safety studies an exciting topic that, in my mind, calls for further study. Fortunately, here is a new study for companion and comparison reading, Planning Artificial Light at Night for Pedestrian Visual Diversity in Public Spaces, published January 12, 2023. There are many other articles that address outdoor, public lighting - theory and practice - that you should take the time to read. For readers who are contemplating a masters in lighting design, take a look at this year’s conference organizer, the Lighting Design Lab at Aalborg University Copenhagen

  • Introducing Placemaking After Dark

    NightSeeing™ aims to transform cities into welcoming, inspiring, inclusive night Are your planning efforts day-focused? What about the night? Read on for the Myrtle Beach case study. Scroll down to download the report with photos to learn more. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is planning and designing an Arts and Innovation District. Nighttime designer and urban lighting consultant, Leni Schwendinger was commissioned by the Myrtle Beach Downtown Alliance (MBDA) to conduct her NightSeeing™️ methodology to address nighttime and lighting issues and to set objectives for the future. Through close collaboration with MBDA, a customized program was delivered. This included a LightWalk, an invited workshop, a stakeholder Q&A, and an open public presentation. Stakeholders attended Leni’s talk and LightWalk tour where they experienced a fresh perspective on positive and negatively perceived night spaces, their social and physical conditions, and lighting atmospheres. The purpose was to provide a qualitative experience with a vision of the future in mind. Attendees included the Myrtle Beach Mayor, City Council, and City Operations staff. Small business owners and managers participated. Also in attendance were arts and culture representatives such as Coastal Carolina University. Vocabulary and the language of light were expanded to describe how the after-dusk vitalized district would look and feel. As a baseline, during the Envisioning Workshop, attendees identified three objectives for the District’s nighttime design. Identifiable pathways for walking and bikeways that emphasize connection A canvas of light with focal points designed with historic characteristics and innovative features Transformable fun spaces that welcome An enthusiastic community cohort was created through active learning, collective walking, and workshopping. A launch point has been established for a nighttime masterplan to improve the future Arts & Innovation District in Myrtle Beach.

  • SMART CITY EXPO WORLD CONGRESS 2023 in Barcelona, Spain

    Nightseeing™ during the Smart City Expo was hosted by CICAT, the Catalan Lighting Cluster. Andrea Padre, CICAT Manager describes the unique approach for Urban Glow: Leni led an exclusive NightSeeing™ through the heart of Barcelona, offering an unparalleled opportunity to explore the city's unique urban lighting landscape. Her profound understanding of light and darkness in urban environments was shared during the walk. This experience aimed to inspire participants to view neighborhoods after sunset as creative and dynamic spaces, with a particular focus on smart lighting through an urban design lens. We welcome you to the URBAN GLOW. Boston, Massachusetts NIGHTSEEING™ BOSTON BY NIGHT Boston Lights is a non-profit association dedicated to outdoor lighting in the Boston area. Leni Schwendinger convened an invited NightSeeing™ LightWalk and a keynote speech during the bi-annual Light Boston Expo on October 3rd and 4th. Her Light Talk focused on international illumination masterplans. Boston's current district plans neglect night and lighting. The intent was to strengthen designers' responses to the city plans. The LightWalk was high spirited. Attendees, lighting designers and city officials, debated public, private, and found light, and other urban lighting frameworks. " We were pleased to have Leni contribute to the lighting dialogue with the City of Boston. LIGHT Boston encourages the City's new mission to elevate the city's night-time economy visibility." — Keith Yancey, President of LIGHT Boston RESOURCES: Urban Nighttime Design: Bridging the Gap Between Community and Technology Envisioning Community Engagement in Smart Lighting Design

  • Nighttime Design Criteria: Placemaking After-dark

    2023 update from Leni Schwendinger: I just returned from the Barcelona Smart City World Expo Congress. The premier Smart City conference established in 2011. The principles shared in this article, first published by Urban Design Forum March 27, 2019, remains relevant. And now, more than ever, the proposed 'Responsively Lit Outdoor Patch', a pilot that combines connected lighting, community co-design and capacity building is critically needed to test community-based smart lighting outcomes. It is time cities consider a range of criteria – user equity, economic viability, and health – and light for nighttime design and planning initiatives. By Leni Schwendinger, with Daleana Vega Martinez and Fatima Terin As the sun sets, 9-to-5’rs leave their place of work. By 11:00pm clubbers are prowling the city and third shift workers are just starting their “day.” With night activities and flexible working hours increasingly redefining urban experience, greater emphasis should be focused on the after-dark environment. Which transformational public palettes – design, policy, zoning – can successfully enlarge New York City public space inhabitation and work opportunities? Building upon the recently formed NYC Mayor’s Office of Nightlife with its appointed Night Mayor, let’s shine a laser on our “city that never sleeps” to improve the nighttime experience. Methodologies should include: the creation of integrated guidelines for strategic and operational nighttime design, and identification of resources required for this game-altering endeavor. In sum, empower the private and public sectors to consider placemaking methods for vibrant nighttimes. Enhancements to nighttime in cities flow from three main objectives: enhancing economic vitality, improving public health, and increasing safety and welcome. With these pillars in mind, nighttime design must be rooted in community-engagement methodologies while collaborating with municipal agencies and influencing policy. • Economy: Night industries such as dining and entertainment, as well as transportation/transit, medical and sanitation, employ thousands of people and draw tourists and residents to enrich commercial enterprise. Lighting best-practice techniques, such as connective, “smart”, technologies, save city funds. • Public Health: Walkability is a new standard for city streetscape design. Wayfinding increases intuitive navigation. Inspiring pocket parks, plazas and seating optimized for after-dark usage encourage a mix of exercise and social interaction. • Welcome and safety: City-wide strategies such as Vision Zero and increased mobility options establish safer streets. Incorporating social research and enabling tactical approaches such as responsive lighting pilots develop a sense of “ownership” and pride. Temporally-based policy to grapple with alcohol and drug-related violence is another tool for safer nights New York City has joined other global cities such as London, Sydney and Amsterdam with its recently passed Local Law 2017-178, amending the City Charter to establish an office of nightlife and advisory board. Internationally, such programs initially focus on quality of life issues arising from liquor consumption and “noise” and, on the positive side, the value of live music and performance. If the NYC program follows the best practice trajectory in other cities, the next step will be a focus on culture, expanding scope to overall night planning and design opportunities that affect everyday life in our city after-dark. It is time to re-draw city design visions to include the hours of darkness. This is an invitation to urbanists who believe in places that are welcoming, heterogeneous and inclusive from dusk to dawn. Let’s add “nighttime overlay” to the language of city planning. Leni Schwendinger is a published, award-winning authority on issues of city lighting. With over 20 years of worldwide experience, she has created illuminated environments at major infrastructure sites such as subways and bridges. Currently, she is directing a startup, the International Nighttime Design Initiative. This proposal was written in collaboration with Daleana Vega Martinez and Fatima Terin of the International Nighttime Design Initiative.

  • Leni Schwendinger Makes a Lightscape of the Evening Streetery Scene Part 14 of 15 proposals to help

    By Audrey Wachs Additional reporting by Sukjong Hong Intro by Leni Schwendinger I ❤️ the #NYC outdoor restaurants and worked on typologies with AIA New York | Center for Architecture. Before that, the early post-pandemic nights were so intriguing that Curbed and New York Magazine invited me to contribute to their March 2021 tribute to the pandemic. See my photo collage of the West Village sparkling streeteries (Graphic by #FatimaTerin) Many thanks to Sukjong Hong and Audrey Wachs Art: Photography by Leni Schwendinger/Graphic Design by Fatima Terin A year after New York City went into lockdown, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 30,000 of its residents. The tragedy’s scale has made it difficult to comprehend the private griefs so many of us have experienced: the million heartbreaks of lost friends, lost livelihoods, lost neighborhood fixtures, lost senses of belonging. Instead of proposing a grand permanent memorial, we asked a wide range of New Yorkers about the moments from the pandemic that stood out to them and how they would want those experiences to be commemorated. In response, a selection of architects and artists translated those memories into proposals for temporary installations. We imposed no budget limit and no restrictions: The result could be a sculpture, a mural, a pavilion, a song — anything that could become part of the streetscape for a while. Presented here is one of 15 concepts submitted by architects, designers, artists, and composers; the rest will appear over the course of this week. Client: Kalkin Narvilas Restaurateur, Saggio and Uptown Garrison in Washington Heights, Cent’Anni in Crown Heights, and Midwood Flats in Flatbush. Kalkin Narvilas: I have restaurants I like to think that have soul. I’m not shooting for a Michelin star. I’m not a chef. It’s just the overall kind of community and clubhouse and neighborhood place where people come to celebrate and to meet and to be social, which is why I was very scared when it hit the fan. And I was in disbelief in the beginning. I literally was like, ‘Ha! Come and close me. I’d like to see that.’ And then, before you know it, we were delivery-only starting March 16th. I was facing the loss of my entire life’s work, and I don’t have a degree or something that I can go look for a job. I would have to start from scratch again. We closed March 28th and I reopened the Uptown Garrison for coffee the very end of April. And then, by the first week in May, I had all four places open. So the first round of pivots were at the end of June. They let us have that outdoor seating. So now we’re like a brick and mortar food truck. We’re selling branded Dram cans, canning our own cocktails, we have pomme frites in the wax cone things with dipping sauces, we have little sliders. We started doing a CSA box with one of our farms that we used to work with that we put out in the window… Then winter came and we had to pivot again. And I was always afraid of it. But my wait staff, my bartenders, my baristas, everybody was a unicorn. People that were waiters now became baristas, and learned how to be bartenders. It was really incredible. I started looking into these igloos that I saw on the Upper West Side before it was even that cold. And we made them as nice as we could. And I was like, all right, let’s give people an experience. I came up with the idea of doing s’mores. I have a pastry chef on my team that was like, ‘Hey, I can make the marshmallows.’ So we had the s’mores with a raspberry and a vanilla and a maple tahini marshmallow. It’s like the cream has risen to the top for me; the people that have been with me fighting this fight and adjusting with me and and trusting me and moving forward… All my places are like my children. I’ll be laughing when this pandemic’s over and I have my life, that’s my victory. And I have people now that I could focus on and I could give my love to; I’m not distracted anymore. Lighting Designer: Leni Schwendinger As an urban lighting and nighttime designer, Leni Schwendinger has a sharp eye for atmosphere. She came away from Kalkin Narvilas’s story with a sense of the difficulty he had adapting his business to fluctuating COVID positivity rates as well as the city’s game of red light, green light with outdoor dining. It made her think, she said, of her own relationship to streeteries, the provisional and often stylish partitioned patios that restaurateurs like Narvilas have built on sidewalks and reclaimed parking spaces. She started photographing the streeteries in October. “I was fascinated by the workmen in the street pounding two-by-fours together with openings and doors, building right in the street,” Schwendinger said. “And then the lights appeared. I was tickled by what I saw.” Schwendinger said she walked the blocks near her home in the West Village many nights just to see the outdoor setups, which ranged from ad hoc to sophisticated. “I was interested in how restaurant owners were draping the lights, and how they were using things like ambient heaters for light. I was observing what colors people were using or not using. The variety of applications, the inventiveness: Are we stretching the string [lights]? Are we draping it? Was it overhead? Is it on the window?” She brought these questions to bear on the lighting schemes she captured for Narvilas’s memorial, which features an illustrated cityscape overlaid onto a collage of photographs from her walks. In the graphic, Schwendinger and her collaborator, urban designer Fatima Terin, drew parallels between Narvilas’s pivots to keep his restaurants viable and the role of improvised lighting schemes in defining the mood of DIY outdoor dining rooms. The graphic moves from darkness at the bottom to lightness at the top, a reflection of Narvalis’s move from doubt and financial uncertainty to solutions like his daring menu experiments that have kept his businesses afloat. If Narvilas is on board, she imagines linking the collage to a QR code on the menu. “Diners would get the image as a hors d’oeuvre,” Schwendinger said. “We felt passionate about creating an image that both mirrors the experience of this year and is a representation of his ingenuity.” Read more about Neighborhood Commons....

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