Inventing Nighttime Design

Nighttime design and its concomitant Shades of Night analysis were born out of the NightSeeing™ Program

Charles Lane

During the dark hours, a nexus of walking and observing living city streets  — at once intuitive and self activated — merged into a performative and philosophical practice.

2009: 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.

As you have read in this blog – urban nighttime is illuminated by public, private and found lighting.

Public lighting is provided by the city or utility as the very basic in safety lighting. It is augmented by private sources of lighting – significantly, cars themselves with their headlights. Additionally shop windows, displays and various types of commercial buildings provide light on the sidewalk to help pedestrians find their way cheerfully and safely. Finally the phone booths, bus shelters, light billboards and even ATMs provide what I call “found” lighting. 2009

The phenomenological – reflections and sparkle – glint as figures of found light against the background of mono-typical fields of sodium yellow streetlighting, and more recently as a blinkingly, blindingly white-grey saturation.

NightSeeing 82nd Street Partnership

82nd Street NightSeeing™/Envisioning 2012


How long does it take to synthesize disparate focuses — lighting, city life, community engagement — into a meaningful body of work? Three years, five years? A decade?

Smart Everyday Nighttime Design, international research accomplished with Arup, and partners such as London School of Economics,