Night in a new light – Leni Schwendinger

Nighttime Designer, Creative Director of Nightseeing™, New York


The future of urban nighttime environments is at once functional, malleable, and finally inspirational. Let’s design for happiness and joyful experiences after dark.

Nighttime hours are precious. They are discretionary, the after work – free time – for most of us. For those who work the “third shift” (transit, cleaners, technology coders, healthcare workers), illumination offers a sense of security while traversing the city on the way to the job.

The nighttime designer is driven by an overarching vision for safety, public health and local economies. The recently formed International Nighttime Design Initiative intends to address systemic, urban issues that arise after dark, such as lack of safety, fear, gendered exclusivity, dull local economics, homogenisation of night lighting and public spaces, and lack of creative, nighttime arts planning, among other grievous gaps in the urban disciplines.

I envision urban lighting designers as leaders in the field of nighttime design. Teams will be composed of relevant professionals: such as cultural planners, retail experts, public health consultants, historians, technologists, which would be assembled based on the nighttime condition of the improvement or study area.

Creatively illuminated spaces encourage companionable walks with friends and colleagues and chance meetings of strangers after sundown. Gathering places conducive to interaction augment variation and complexity among social relationships.

Today’s urban lighting, bound by codified policy for fixtures, sources, heights, and lighting levels does not match this vision. We have to find ways to persuade and address client concerns about liability, maintenance issues, fear of innovation, to arrive at truly vital late night public spaces.

Night should exist with a distinct personality – not just extending “day through lighting”. Value-driven, structured approaches can provide inclusive, localised ambience to people, within budget – whilst building pride and confidence. In this way, a holistic approach can influence better future nights.


Images ©Dr. Don Slater, Configuring Light Program, LSE


An edited version of this article originally appeared in   (Issue #7, July 2018).


See what Luc Gwiazdzinski, Frederic Hocquard, Elizabeth Johnston, Kaoru Mende, Mirik Milan and Jess Scully –  have to say on the nighttime in cities.





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