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Light Research @ MMU

Community Light Installations Brighten Up the Season of Darkness in Finland

In their Light Castle Project, artists Anne Salmela and Anna Turunen create light installations in cooperation with the residents of different housing communities. The aim of the project is to bring art into the public realm, and into our everyday life, closer to the members of the community while also creating art pieces that can be enjoyed by every passer-by in the midst of the darkest season of the year. The light installations executed in shared city space turn familiar neighbourhoods into new environments. These art works transform familiar places into colourful and magical environments as lights, colours and pictures chosen by occupants of the participating houses are shared with the local community through their windows. The installations produce new encouLight Castle of Heikinlinnanters and experiences, as well as an opportunity for the public to catch a glimpse of the private world of the participating community.
In ‘Light Castle’, the participants choose a theme or a colour that pleases them, working together with the artists and in consultation with their family. Often, simply the choice of a colour proves to be surprisingly important. The actual construction is preceded by a long process of conceiving and planning the design with the occupants. In addition to coloured lights, installations includes moving images, such as the occupants’ videos about their hobbies, sporting enthusiasms or musical passions, or aspects of nature and photographs from their own albums. Light Castle of SampolaThe windows also features drawings by the occupants and messages that spill out onto staircases, as well as experimental features such as installations created by neighbours that were in dialogue with each other. The first Light Castle was made by Salmela and Turunen in Pori, Finland 2012. Since that, they have continued with their project in other cities. Blog: http://valolinna.net/
Posted by Anne Salmela and Anna TurunenLight Castle participants

March 23rd, 2015 - 18:53pm

Picturing the dynamics of urban lightscapes

Posted by Josiane Meier

Urban lighting generally seems to be a rather static affair: When night falls, the lights are switched on – and when dawn rises, they go off. However, given that there is not only one switch for a city’s lights, but rather a whole array of larger and smaller switches and dials, it’s worth asking whether this simple and synchronised “on-off-on-off” is really what’s happening. Are there differences in rhythm and schedule between public and private lighting, between street lights, architectural illuminations and neon signs, between the lights in different parts of a city? And, if so: What determines their dynamics?

In order to gain insights into this largely uncharted territory, we are assembling and analysing a growing collection of time lapse videos. Each video portrays one night in one of Berlin’s urban centres – places that are hotspots of day- and night-time activity and that are typically expected & accepted to be especially bright. Composed of over 1.000 individual images each, and furnished with time stamps, the videos make it possible to observe what happens with individual light sources as the night progresses. The camera’s positioning and settings are kept identical, thereby allowing for the comparison of levels of brightness within and between locations.time lapse Breitscheidplatz

time lapse Alexanderplatz

Three of the locations have been portrayed in early summer nights – Alexanderplatz, Potsdamer Platz and Hackescher Markt – to allow for comparability, while one – Breitscheidplatz – is shown in the winter holiday season, providing a glimpse at the special case of festive lighting.

One thing quickly becomes very clear when viewing the videos: Urban lightscapes are not static at all – they change significantly throughout the night. It is interesting to note that there are places with a considerably more or less pronounced dynamic. The lights at Hackescher Markt, in particular, don’t change much at all in comparison to those of Alexanderplatz or Potsdamer Platz. Remarkably, the level of brightness at Hackescher Markt also appears to be significantly lower than at the other two locations – both in our videos and in a bird’s eye view of Berlin at night – despite various indicators pointing toward it being the place in this comparison that sees the most activity during the night.

time lapse Hackescher-Mkt  time lapse Potsdamer-Platz

Differences between various types of light sources are also becoming apparent. For example, public street lights and the illumination of public transport stations stay on throughout the night in all cases. Architectural illumination and lit advertisements, on the other hand, often go out in the small hours – some remain off, while others relight in the early morning. There are, however, significant exceptions: The dome of the IMAX cinema at Potsdamer Platz or the steeple of the Memorial Church at Breitscheidplatz remain brightly lit all night long. The assortment of seasonal lights visible in the Breitscheidplatz time lapse follows a variety of rhythms: While the Christmas market’s lights go off at around 10:15 pm, the adornments along the street only go out at 12:15 am, and the construction crane’s decoration remains lit all night.

Overall, it has become very evident that the how, when and why of our illuminated nights is not at all clear-cut: Far from being static or homogenous, they are an amalgamation of many different actors’ actions and logics, and their dynamics are worth investigating as much as the motives behind them.

December 18th, 2014 - 13:51pm

Experimenting with light in Copenhagen – and the dangers of responsive lighting

Here’s a link to a fascinating piece on experimentation with smart lighting technologies in Copenhagen. Tellingly, the author also comments on the potential for such technologies to be deployed to intensifty surveillance and impose strict regimes of  law and order. This is a salient reminder that the rolling out of smart lighting promises much in improving the quality of the aesthetics and sustainability of urban illumination but the dangers need to be acknowledged as well!  http://bldgblog.blogspot.de/2014/08/right-to-light.html

October 31st, 2014 - 10:26am

The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative’s Christmas Lights in Detroit

On a cold February day in Detroit, buried underneath a foot of snow, a systematic arrangement of red flags was just about visible on the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative’s (MUFI) primary agricultural production field. The red flags act as a series of waypoints to guide streams of Christmas lights across the field; a field that was once a bustling residential location but is now overwhelmed by the uncontrollable return of nature to the city. The lights used were technically simplistic and were wired up to a house that acts as an operational headquarters which, unlike the majority of houses in the neighbourhood, was connected to mains electricity. The luminous streams of various colours would eventually come together to form the letter ‘D’ for ‘Detroit’ that not only echoes the pride of place that many Detroiters feel, but also maintains a connection and visibility between MUFI and the neighbourhood.MUFI by daylight

On a winter’s day, this site lies dormant; only the infrastructural components of farming activity are noticeable, propped up against the high-rises of Midtown that are clearly visible against the sparsely-housed neighbourhood in the foreground. However, by night this space is illuminated; used in an innovative way to not only reassure the neighbourhood that they are not forgotten about during the off-season, but also to raise awareness and gain the attention of passers-by to the communal activity of urban agriculture. The incandescence of the Christmas lights is juxtaposed against the formidable dark of the night-time that continues to stalk increasingly large numbers of neighbourhoods throughout the city, as a ‘responsible reduction’ of street light usage becomes endemic to the cityscape.

Detroit illuminated

There is an ever-developing battle between Detroit residents and the city as public street lighting continues to be shut down by austerity measures that plunge the city into a darkness that can only be escaped by means of these Christmas lights. Significantly, community agricultural initiatives provide the infrastructural means through which the darkness can be overcome, providing lighting to benefit the neighbourhood residents who, according to the New York Times, are becoming evermore reluctant to leave their homes by night for fear of crime. The lights give the space a positive function and a renewed perception of place in Detroit. Posted by William Roberts, postgraduate student at currently  is a Durham University Geography Master’s
student
(Picture of illumination of lights courtesy of Tyson Gersh: http://instagram.com/p/iUzNshuNoF/)

 

May 13th, 2014 - 09:03am

Subluminal at John Rylands Library, Manchester

On Deansgate, a main artery of Manchester, lies John Rylands Library, an extraordinary, charismatic Victorian neo-Gothic building that testifies to the power and confidence of the city’s entrepreneurs during its industrial zenith. On the nights of 30th and 31st of January and 1st February, the library was the site for Subluminal, a event devised by a group of design professionals from North West England. Their aim: to transform the usual sensory apprehension of the building. blue ceiling

Visitors were invited to enter the usually unused main door, and make their way through the library’s interior, where a plethora of light effects highlighted sensational architectural features, design details, sculptures, artefacts, stairways, niches, chambers and passageways.  Initially, we lingered in the cavernous reading room, where coloured and white lights highlighted key features, punctuating the general gloom. Then, thrillingly, we descended a very narrow spiral staircase into the bowels of the building. Walking through a dark corridor lined with leather bound books, usually inaccessible to the public,  a strobe light  briefly illuminated the surroundings.

door with bars

Further along, chambers bordered by doors with iron bars were illuminated by a soulful red light, compounding the thick atmosphere. The tour was accompanied by evocative sounds, including a welcoming introduction from the statue of industrialist John Rylands himself, ambient drones and whispers, and throbbing bass notes that spread through the subterranean passageways. At points, the gloom inside contrasted with the light from outside that shone through the ornamental windows. In wholly defamiliarising and enchanting the library through the deployment of sounds, illumination and especially darkness, Subluminal made a powerful statement about the potency of light and sonic design to enrich the sensory experience of place. For more details and selection of images, see http://www.subluminal.eu/jrlevent.html

figures sculpture trio

 

 

February 4th, 2014 - 15:39pm

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