Table of contents:
Introduction. Contemporary nocturnal landscapes
The nightscape as experience, symbol and representation (Marc Armengaud)
The nightscape, a natural enigma
The nightscape, cradle of thought
Night as spectacle
The infrastructural nature of the nightscape. Night as revealing of the large-scale, of the networked territory (Matthias Armengaud)
The infrastructure of light: the network/the cathedral
The infrastructures of mobility as territorial series
Apparition of the third outer ring: in solids and voids
City by night: the illuminated city (Alessandra Cianchetta)
Selected urban lighting projects: Piero Castiglioni, Yann Kersalé and Motoko Ishii
Billboard buildings/Architectures in the night
Temporary nocturnal cities
Appendix. Night gardens: nocturnal plants
Excerpt from the introduction:
'Contemporary nocturnal landscapes
Exterior, night, 21st century
We are living through a period of intense agitation in terms of the nocturnal face of our cities, which renews the very idea of nocturnal urbanity, hitherto reduced to local areas with their discothèques and their excess. One speaks of landscape, because this is a perceptual dimension which transversally unites a paradoxical variety of urban and social states, some of which are barely visible. The nocturnal personality of a city has become the detonator of its power of attraction, in a context of international competition between qualities of life in Toronto, San Francisco or London. In Paris, immense temporary scenographies transform the entire metropolis during the annual Nuits Blanches or Paris Plage events. In Shanghai the proliferation of digital facades redefines architecture as a computerised landscape. In Stockholm, the city becomes a gigantic pink installation for a night in order to celebrate a chain of solidarity against cancer.
But we are also living through a period which witnesses the return of violent disturbances or of blackouts one thought long past. On the outskirts as in the centre, in the zones of activity as in the leisure or housing areas, “after closing time” these cities undergo changes that are often discreet but just as massive as those of day. And the diversity of these situations forms an extensive social, cultural, economic, and even at times political, landscape which still remains largely unexplored: a “new frontier”, perhaps? These issues are of particular interest to all who are protagonists in the new mobility systems: night reduces possibilities, in a context of redefining possibilities. Even if the phenomena of urban standardisation exist at night, too, one discovers above all else that each city has an original nocturnal personality which still resists such standardisation, because at night nothing is easy, or continuous, or efficient. This is an essential source of urban inspiration for the issue of a ‘sense of territory’.
The icon of these contemporary nightscapes is in fact on the Shanghai Bund (and symmetrically at Pudong), an urban frontage many kilometres long that is entirely reconfigured at night by digital illuminated signs, to the point that from now on this landscape seems to be perceived and conceived on the basis of its nocturnal transformation. Throughout Asia the streets are in the process of being covered with “daytime screens” that prolong the aesthetic of the night, limning in the idea of a new urban season, artificial, to be sure, but nocturnal in essence. In Tokyo the old New York Times Square model is in evidence in so many areas that it has become a metropolitan project in itself.
This interest in light is instituted in Europe and North America by numerous capitals and big cities that renovate their “Lighting Plan”, but on the basis of other traditions of the landscape, more concerned about the relation with the diurnal state of things. The whole of Europe is bathed in the same orange sodium light, with the exception of the city centres which reinvent themselves with polychrome personalities. But according to which criteria does one think about illumination today? Permanence or permanent renewal? Seasonality or the event-driven? The questions are echoed by the (contradictory?) preoccupation with sustainable development.
Temporary nocturnal cities
The other great contemporary nocturnal tendency is the programming of big events for one or more nights, which involve transformations of the urban experience at the metropolitan scale: Nuits Blanches (Open Nights), Museum Nights, Light Festivals or Music Nights succeed each other in all the major capitals (with Paris playing the part of a laboratory for most of these formats). The cities reinvent a calendar of urban festivities, albeit way beyond the search for new social rites. With these transformations of the ordinary city into a surreal one, a fundamental change is brought about: instead of submitting to the spatial constraints conceived on the basis of functionality and the laws of exchange alone, the urbanity of space is oscillated in time. The nocturnal state permits flexibility. This flexibility can then become a value intrinsic to the city; instead of always being the same, it must be different all the time. At other scales, this movement is read in the schedules of certain football matches programmed after midnight (in Barcelona of course), or in the success of nocturnal outings on roller skates bringing together thousands of citizens during the week in Paris or New York. In the difficult areas in the north of Paris the sports facilities also elect to open at night to help channel the energies of idle youngsters who were spending their nights in hallways. Nighttime today means the spectacle of new practices that give rise to new kinds of spatial programming. What is a specifically nocturnal public space? What is a garden in darkness? On the basis of which principle does one develop a project? If night means the ephemeral, the fragile, the spontaneous, how does one construct this element without distorting it? To observe the cityscape by night means to ask oneself about nocturnal design values. Night is a situation which permits one to reactivate a discourse about urban values, in a context of sociability, but also of spontaneous curiosity, states that are favourable to innovative formulations. Temporary night is the urban laboratory of many a city.
It isn’t an idyllic landscape for all that: night is that temporality when the city must get its breath back, rectify itself. As it is, it increasingly becomes the theatre of accidents which are the expression of an overheating of the diurnal system that is released in this mid-state: on the one hand with recurrent blackouts (Toronto 2003, Italy 2004), a mechanical metaphor of this overheating, but above all with nocturnal riots as in Paris in 2005 or Copenhagen in 2007. These events may take the form of torch-lit processions for non-violent protests (against the Milosevic regime in Belgrade in 1999), and/or of an urban guerrilla whose aim is to bring about a confrontation between the police and marginalised youngsters, creating the televised image of radical chaos within the social order. Night is a major political theatre of our time, then. And the imagery of the guerrilla has been privileged by numerous 'tribes' of artists and activists since the beginning of the 1990s and the phenomenon of raves: hundreds or thousands of people meet at dead of night on a bit of derelict land that temporarily becomes a techno town in the middle of a periurban, post-industrial or at times even rural landscape. Before the police have managed to intervene, the night is over. Hackers, social workers, musicians, web designers, militant radical ecologists, nocturnal activists like the members of Reclaim the Streets and artists like Space Invaders or Blinkenlights have developed tactics of urban interventionism, some of which are already on display in the museums, because they suggest new forms of re-conquered public space and exhibit our need to re-appropriate the urban territory for ourselves. (…)'
Copyright of the text: the authors
Copyright of the edition: Editorial Gustavo Gili SL