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Blog Posts (88)

  • 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....

  • 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

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Other Pages (51)

  • Under the Elevated, Phase II Pilot

    Infrastructure + Bridges < Previous Next > Photo: NYC Department of Transportation Photo: Leni Schwendinger Under the Elevated, Phase II Pilot Location Sunset Park Brookly, NY Client Design Trust for Public Space, New York City of Department of Trasnportaion (DOT), Industry City Team Tricia Martin, Landscape and Sustainability; Quilian Riano, Urban Design; Arup, Technical Lighting ​ ​ There are 700 miles of elevated infrastructure which creates darkened spaces below New York City’s bridges, expressways, and rail tracks. The New York City DOT intends to develop a set of physical design typologies to reclaim these public spaces. Design Trust for Public Space coordinated a study and pilot program with partners DOT and Industry City tapping collaborative design fellows including Leni Schwendinger for illumination at the Gowanus Expressway at 36th Street and 3rd Avenue. There are 700 miles of elevated infrastructure which creates darkened spaces below New York City’s bridges, expressways, and rail tracks. The New York City DOT intends to develop a set of physical design typologies to reclaim these public spaces. Design Trust for Public Space coordinated a study and pilot program with partners DOT and Industry City tapping collaborative design fellows including Leni Schwendinger for illumination at the Gowanus Expressway at 36th Street and 3rd Avenue. ​Underpasses are notorious as dividers between communities and assets such as waterfronts: daytime can feel spooky and nighttime dangerous. Our design includes a light-colored paint coating for comfort and better visibility during the day. The parking configuration was rationalized, and tiles defined a safe walkway. Features include a botanical experiment to cleanse run-off water from the upper-level road surface. For lighting, we sought to stitch together both geographical sides of the bridge, which lead to and from the Upper New York Bay waterfront and 36th Street subway stop. The lighting scope included focal points such as illumination of the unusual, splayed columns and curved beams, as well as volumetric space illumination for pedestrian waiting and crossing. Additionally, tests were conducted with green infrastructure plants and horticultural lighting. Illumination, especially the plant lighting, was called out as number one in the list of improvements by the DOT post-installation survey of visitors, residents and local workers. From the New York Times, “The murky blocks by 36th Street and Third Avenue now have brighter lighting, beautified lighting, beautified walkways and lovely planters to clean the air and filter runoff from the highway above.”

  • HtO Toronto Harbourfront Parks

    Landscape + Parks < Previous Next > Photo: Eduard Hueber / Archphoto Image: Leni Schwendinger Light Projects HtO Toronto Harbourfront Parks Location Toronto, Ontario, Canada Client The City of Toronto Team Janet Rosenberg + Associates, Claude Cormier Architectes Paysagistes, Hariri Pontarini Architects, Stantec ​ ​ HtO Harbourfront Park in Toronto was envisioned as a connection between downtown and Lake Ontario. Sustainable design principles were incorporated at every level and include waterfront accessibility, enhanced connections to the city, forward-thinking ecological design, integrated public art, and lighting design. The park design by Claude Cormier and Janet Rosenberg and Associates is a series of experiences including the roadside connection, floating dunes, and finally, by the harbor, a tiered esplanade reaching into the water. During the day visitors are drawn to the water. At night, the focus shifts toward the sparkling backdrop of the city. A moonlight effect is layered with color accents to create an after-dark living theatre in the dunes. Underwater illumination gives the appearance of a floating park. “We call the design HtO,” noted the landscape architects, “because it proposes a new chemistry between Toronto and the waterfront - a fundamental change in the relationship.” The project is cited for its innovative waterfront transformation.

  • Kingston Bridge

    Infrastructure + Bridges < Previous Next > Photo: Steve Hosey Diagrams: Leni Schwendinger Light Projects Kingston Bridge Location Glasgow, Scotland Client Glasgow City Council Department of Development and Regeneration Services Team McKeown Alexander Architects, Mott MacDonald ​ ​ A public art commission to re-envision the most highly trafficked bridge in Europe at night. Chroma Streams; Tide and Traffic is a site-specific, integrated lighting installation for the Kingston Bridge in Glasgow, Scotland is part of the city’s lighting strategy and regeneration of the river banks. Artist Leni Schwendinger with her Light Projects team collaborated with architects McKeown Alexander. The Kingston Bridge comprises five traffic lanes in each direction, supported by two monumental concrete arcs connecting the city masses over the River Clyde. The underside of the vast concrete slabs provides a canvas for the artwork. Two great flows, seemingly antithetical, tidal, and vehicular traffic, are triggers for the illumination, color, and sequencing concepts. Glaswegian physicist Lord Kelvin's tidal graphs prompted the consideration of how these flows could be measured and illustrated through color on the bridge itself. Two great flows, seemingly antithetical, tidal, and vehicular traffic, are triggers for the illumination, color, and sequencing concepts. Glaswegian physicist Lord Kelvin's tidal graphs prompted the consideration of how these flows could be measured and illustrated through color on the bridge itself. This installation uses light in various ways: to illuminate and give resonance to the bridge's overlooked surfaces; to heighten its rapport with the flow of the river below it; and to, through a series of shifting and evolving real-time patterns, explore the relationship between the flow of traffic on the bridge itself and the slow change of the tides on the river below. Providing a daytime element to the artwork’s nighttime presence is crucial to outdoor works in the medium of light. Four 20-foot-tall stainless-steel sculptural armatures, inspired by Lord Kelvin's curvy nineteenth-century graphs, are installed in sculptural pairs on each side of the river.

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