Contract - Shades of Night: Why is Light Essential for Your Design?

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Shades of Night: Why is Light Essential for Your Design?

22 January, 2010



Leni Schwendinger is a bit of a night owl. But the principal for New York-based lighting design company Leni Schwendinger Light Projects LTD, has to be—it’s when she gets her best inspiration. In addition to working on such projects as the Chroma Streams, Tide and Traffic (Glasgow, Scotland), and the Coney Island Parachute Jump (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Schwendinger is a faculty member for the Architecture, Interior Design, and Lighting Department at Parsons School of Design in New York City. She also frequently hosts “Night Walks” in the city, which are free and open to the public, to explore the affect of lighting in public spaces at night.
 
Schwendinger recently spoke with
Contract magazine to discuss the importance of light in design and how it can be utilized to influence and enhance any commercial project.
 
Contract: Why is light important to consider when creating designs?
Leni Schwendinger:
Lighting allows people to recognize each other. It allows them to feel safe, and it allows the atmospheres of the space and the materials that make up that space to be seen. And finally, it enhances the identity and character of the space.

When I think about lighting in a public space, I am thinking about the use of the public space, as well as the more formal public design. You have people, you have materials, and you also have time of day and time of night. In my theory, or lighting philosophy, the time of night is quite important because there are what I call “shades of the night,” which are definable times throughout the night when you will have different types of activity. So if you have a public plaza of some sort where there are restaurants, the times that the restaurants open and closed will have a lot to do with the use of that space. Or if you have a movie theater, you will see how late-night traffic will ebb and flow as to the different show times. Also, when a restaurant or late-night club closes and the lights go out, a little extra lighting is removed from the public space.
 
It’s becoming more and more possible to use shades of night, due to technology to adapt the lighting to times of night. I believe that urban planners and developers, and those concerned with good public lighting, in the future will be able to increase or reduce the amount of public lighting according to foot traffic to conserve energy. This type of adaptable public lighting is becoming more and more possible, and that’s why the shades of night and different activities in public spaces at night are becoming more important to recognize.
 
Contract: Should all projects consider the affects light on their design? Or are there some types of projects where light isn’t really an important factor?
LS:
Here’s the deal—if there’s no light a space cannot be seen. If you have a full moon you’ll have about one foot-candle—a foot-candle is what street lighting aims to reach in its average brightness—so really that’s not bright. And the actual full moon is only one night a month, so if you do not light the space and you’re in a rural or suburban space where you’d simply like to only use the light of the full moon, there will be days when its dimmer and brighter. But if you’re in a more urban and commercialized area, I really think that enhancing a public space of any kind—whether it’s a park, a plaza, a courtyard, or a garden—is pretty important.

Up Close with Leni Schwendinger:

* How many years have you been designing?
I incorporated light projects 17 years ago, but I was designing for theatre prior to that.

* Design school attended and degree?

London Film School, Certificate

*Breakout commercial project?
My career has been a series of breakouts. First, in 1980, I had the opportunity to work at the Bayreuth Opera House, then with Laurie Anderson in 1984 on her rock and roll tour, and a monumental projection on the main post office in Manhattan in 1993 for the Brooklyn Academy of Music. My light installation for McCaw Hall (2001?) in Seattle was a fantastic opportunity to explore the properties of light and color on a grand scale and it garnered a number of awards and press.

* When did you know you wanted to be a designer?

When I realized that I would probably not be a cinematographer (age 24).

* Who has been your greatest influence?

Laszlo Maholy-Nagy, artist/designer/technologist

* Favorite designer (besides yourself)?
Not possible to answer

* Favorite commercial project you worked on to date?
Our product design of the Jewel-Light Luminaire.

* Where do you look for inspiration?
Cities, people, night, dreams

* Career goals/future plans?
I want to continue to develop lighting theory to benefit cities, light the most important landmarks in the world, and create catalysts for people to interact for better social spaces




Shades of Night: Why is Light Essential for Your Design?

22 January, 2010


Leni Schwendinger is a bit of a night owl. But the principal for New York-based lighting design company Leni Schwendinger Light Projects LTD, has to be—it’s when she gets her best inspiration. In addition to working on such projects as the Chroma Streams, Tide and Traffic (Glasgow, Scotland), and the Coney Island Parachute Jump (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Schwendinger is a faculty member for the Architecture, Interior Design, and Lighting Department at Parsons School of Design in New York City. She also frequently hosts “Night Walks” in the city, which are free and open to the public, to explore the affect of lighting in public spaces at night.
 
Schwendinger recently spoke with
Contract magazine to discuss the importance of light in design and how it can be utilized to influence and enhance any commercial project.
 
Contract: Why is light important to consider when creating designs?
Leni Schwendinger:
Lighting allows people to recognize each other. It allows them to feel safe, and it allows the atmospheres of the space and the materials that make up that space to be seen. And finally, it enhances the identity and character of the space.

When I think about lighting in a public space, I am thinking about the use of the public space, as well as the more formal public design. You have people, you have materials, and you also have time of day and time of night. In my theory, or lighting philosophy, the time of night is quite important because there are what I call “shades of the night,” which are definable times throughout the night when you will have different types of activity. So if you have a public plaza of some sort where there are restaurants, the times that the restaurants open and closed will have a lot to do with the use of that space. Or if you have a movie theater, you will see how late-night traffic will ebb and flow as to the different show times. Also, when a restaurant or late-night club closes and the lights go out, a little extra lighting is removed from the public space.
 
It’s becoming more and more possible to use shades of night, due to technology to adapt the lighting to times of night. I believe that urban planners and developers, and those concerned with good public lighting, in the future will be able to increase or reduce the amount of public lighting according to foot traffic to conserve energy. This type of adaptable public lighting is becoming more and more possible, and that’s why the shades of night and different activities in public spaces at night are becoming more important to recognize.
 
Contract: Should all projects consider the affects light on their design? Or are there some types of projects where light isn’t really an important factor?
LS:
Here’s the deal—if there’s no light a space cannot be seen. If you have a full moon you’ll have about one foot-candle—a foot-candle is what street lighting aims to reach in its average brightness—so really that’s not bright. And the actual full moon is only one night a month, so if you do not light the space and you’re in a rural or suburban space where you’d simply like to only use the light of the full moon, there will be days when its dimmer and brighter. But if you’re in a more urban and commercialized area, I really think that enhancing a public space of any kind—whether it’s a park, a plaza, a courtyard, or a garden—is pretty important.

Up Close with Leni Schwendinger:

* How many years have you been designing?
I incorporated light projects 17 years ago, but I was designing for theatre prior to that.

* Design school attended and degree?

London Film School, Certificate

*Breakout commercial project?
My career has been a series of breakouts. First, in 1980, I had the opportunity to work at the Bayreuth Opera House, then with Laurie Anderson in 1984 on her rock and roll tour, and a monumental projection on the main post office in Manhattan in 1993 for the Brooklyn Academy of Music. My light installation for McCaw Hall (2001?) in Seattle was a fantastic opportunity to explore the properties of light and color on a grand scale and it garnered a number of awards and press.

* When did you know you wanted to be a designer?

When I realized that I would probably not be a cinematographer (age 24).

* Who has been your greatest influence?

Laszlo Maholy-Nagy, artist/designer/technologist

* Favorite designer (besides yourself)?
Not possible to answer

* Favorite commercial project you worked on to date?
Our product design of the Jewel-Light Luminaire.

* Where do you look for inspiration?
Cities, people, night, dreams

* Career goals/future plans?
I want to continue to develop lighting theory to benefit cities, light the most important landmarks in the world, and create catalysts for people to interact for better social spaces

 


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