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.
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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.
* 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
Night City with Leni Schwendinger, in Greenwich Village
### NightSeeing is a trademark of Leni Schwendinger Light Projects LTD and is dedicated to co-creator, Mark Kramer, Light Projects’ former writer-in-residence