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Light Research @ MMU

Crowd Darkening: Designing darkness in a Berlin park

Light designer Sabine De Schutter is the winner of the 2013 CLU Foundation Contest for innovative lighting concepts for exterior public space. Sabine and colleagues were rewarded for devising the concept of Crowd Darkening, using an adaptive system of illumination that uses motion tracking to respond to movement and the numbers of people in a public park in Berlin. When few people were in the park, lighting levels rose to enhance feelings of security, whereas levels fell when the numbers of park users increased. Besides minimising the effects of light pollution, Sabine and the the team contend that a sense of safety is created by the presence of several other people in such a setting. Moreover, a sense of well-being and the quality of the atmosphere can be improved by producing a pleasing, comfortable setting  in which a group of friends can socialise. This is a fabulous example of the ways in which designers are increasingly questioning the need to flood public space with light, and reconsidering the qualities offered by darkness and shadow. I envisage that we are at the threshold of a bigger process through which the relationship between light and dark will be completely reconsidered


November 21st, 2013 - 10:39am

Two excellent websites

Firstly, it’s worth exploring the website of Will Straw and colleagues, The Urban Night: The site focuses upon the social and cultural context of the urban night , primarly in Canada, but features a host of useful links and resources. The second website is Robert Williams Night Spaces, a fascinating and broad ranging investigation that explores how the night might be theorised:

October 15th, 2013 - 09:31am

Tino Seghal’s ‘This Variation’

IMayfield Depot, Manchester‘ve just been to a magical event, part of Manchester International Festival, that relies upon the power of the dark and the ability of the eye’s cone cells to gradually become accustomed to seeing in the dark.. The location is a disused and derelict part of Piccadilly Train Station, vacant for many years, that has been opened up as a venue for the festival. Visitors enter the cavernous premises and are guided to a room along a short passageway. Inside, all is completely dark, save for a faint light in the ceiling. The room’s dimensions are impossible to guess, and imagined it had areas that sloped, with perhaps sudden drips bounded by railings. In the absence of light, the mind imagines all sorts of things. In the pitch black, we suddenly became aware of chirrupping noises all around us, and then sonorous voices accompanied these sounds, along with an array of other vocal effects. These seemed to be recorded and animated the darkness with a liveliness that had been initially absent. Yet suddenly, one’s eyes start to become accustomed to the gloom. At first, only vague shadowy forms can be ascertained, but gradually the flat, square shape of the room becomes apparent, and then the figures take on more substantial form. Magically, eyes become attuned to the darkness, and it is evident that many of the figures  in the room are performers, and they are responsible for the sounds and, we notice, movements as well. The ever-changing soundscape shifts from acapella singing to better known songs, occasionally changing into spoken words, and then a romantic slow song is the trigger for the dancers to gently draw close to the visitors, embracing them in a slow dance. It becomes comical to watch new arrivals, edging into the room, arms outstretched, but we are now part of the event, joining in the dance, responding to the performers. Tino Sehgal, designer of the event, is guided by an anti-materialistic ethos, and aims to present work that moves away from the display of (valuable) art objects and towards human interaction, creating ‘constructed situations’ that cannot be recorded and exist solely in the mind and memory of the participants.

July 17th, 2013 - 15:31pm

Stories of Light: Illumination and Darkness in Rural India

Ankit Kumar, a PhD student at Durham University has created a fascinating blog on the inequalities of illumination in rural Indian villages. Often promised illumination by the authorities, electrification has never arrived in these villages due to corruption or a lack of political will. Accordingly, people live without electricity, and in pervasive nocturnal darkness often illuminating their environment with weak kerosene lights that flicker against the surrounding blackness. Ankit also shows how street traders without any lighting find it hard to survive in competition with those who are favourably situated next to street lamps.

Indian street scene



May 3rd, 2013 - 11:52am

Reimagining cities at night: starry urban scenes

Thierry Cohen, a French photographer has produced a set of images which re-imagines iconic urban landscapes at night with no light pollutions.  For a selection of his work please go to this feature in the New York Times.  Thanks to Susan Seitinger for sending us this york starry


April 22nd, 2013 - 11:19am