City Lights, Nighttime Design: the future of night, a spirited video, an international collaboration
A research-based, prototype pilot, blossoms with citizen participation.
Skim to last image for 6-minute video
Urban design often neglects the nocturnal city.
It is time to recognize the changing character of public space after sundown. The practice of Nighttime Design is a critical response to the after-dark experience, proposing new lighting solutions based on the in-depth study, for example, of local mobility, spatial elements, and activities. Nighttime Design positively impacts public health: illuminated streets extend walking hours, increase the number of social encounters, and stimulate economic activity through after-dark cultural and retail offerings. It also improves general wellbeing and feelings of safety in the community through crime reduction.
Smart Everyday Nighttime Design an international, collaborative, research project led by Leni Schwendinger (with Arup), focused on innovative ways to improve the nighttime experience in Getsemaní, a UNESCO world-heritage district in Cartagena, Colombia undergoing rapid gentrification. While tourists are drawn to the area’s colorful authenticity, culture and nightlife, the neighborhood is becoming synonymous with deep inequality and division. As Schwendinger emphasizes, “Is it possible to build better communities with light?”
Nighttime Design values local design solutions. In the case of the Cartagena-sited project, workshops and social/technical research led to the development of a universal LED lantern customized and localized for the area’s streets. The project team had two overall ambitions: the first was to conduct research and develop a sustainable Nighttime Design concept and methodology; the second was to improve community connections and galvanize local stakeholders through the use of private property for public lighting. During a community work session, in July 2016, operational 3-D lantern sketches were created to show how a neutral, modern object could be localized according to a specific urban environment – its culture, values, and symbols. With its blend of old and new components, the lantern prototype accentuated the character of Getsemaní. Its collaborative methodology brought together the interests of residential and commercial actors.
Following the workshop, a “pop-up” prototype pilot installation was conducted on a commercial street. The one-day workshop and pilot were a point of departure for addressing critical issues of social/urban policy. The workshop included community stakeholders including politicians, artists, designers, cultural organizations and, most importantly, local residents. Historical preservation, infrastructure, heritage, tourism, mobility and visual effect were all discussed and debated. The project’s findings were captured on video by Plane-Site, a global agency specializing in full-cycle content strategy. This short documentary illustrates the research process, workshop and resulting prototype pilot – available to view in English and Spanish.
Beyond this, the future is glowing for Nighttime Design as an emerging discipline in city-making around the globe.
Further information Smart Everyday Nighttime Design offers new opportunities for improving economic conditions, public health, social life, security and safety in after-dark environments. The researchers are especially interested in the global south where emerging economies, urban after-dark enthusiasm, heat and time zone combine as a rich cultural area to study, test and implement innovative approaches. The team welcomes expressions of interest from urban-oriented organizations in regard to pilot-based research.
Contact: Research [at] nighttimedesign [dot] org
Credits: Don Slater, co-director, Configuring Light research group at the London School of Economics, Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano, Despacio: Carlos Pardo, iGuzzini, Findeter, Citelum, Arup: Joana Mendo, Christoph Gisel
All photos by Don Slater/Configuring Light
NightSeeing is a trademark of Leni Schwendinger