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Sandy Isenstadt, professor of art history and director of UD's Center for Material Culture Studies, gives the symposium audience a brief history of urban lighting.
From art, architecture and history to
physics and materials science, speakers at the University of Delawares
Green Light symposium on Friday, Oct. 16, brought a variety of
perspectives and areas of expertise to the subject of artificial
Light is an element of cosmic significance, part of virtually every
creation story ever told, Sandy Isenstadt told the audience assembled
in Clayton Hall for the daylong event. Isenstadt, professor of art history
and director of UDs Center for Material Culture Studies, provided a
brief history of urban lighting in a talk titled Good Night.
He teaches the history of modern architecture and is the co-editor of the 2015 book Cities of Light: Two Centuries of Urban Illumination, the first global overview of urban lighting. His current book project, The Architecture of Artificial Light, examines the novel luminous spaces introduced by electric lighting.
Light today is so ubiquitous and expected [in industrialized areas]
that we tend to forget how fantastic it is and the miraculous nature
of artificial light, Isenstadt said at the symposium. He spoke about
the many past centuries in which artificial light was almost unchanged,
provided by oil lamps and candles, and was also very expensive and
therefore used sparingly.
All that changed with the introduction of gas and then electric
lights, Isenstadt said. With that technology, municipalities began
providing outdoor illumination, architects created structures that
incorporated lighting, and U.S. cities competed to showcase their own
versions of New Yorks Great White Way.
Today, he said, We are at an amazing junction of new lighting
technologies and an artistic interest in using light for innovative
Some of those innovative design ideas were described in the
symposiums keynote address, Create the Livable City by Marco Bevolo, a
consultant who has worked with Philips Lightings continuing
city.people.light project since it began in 1996. The international
project holds workshops that include architects, artists, lighting
designers and city planners to brainstorm ideas for lighting projects
that maximize sustainability and make future cities more livable.
He showed slides and described some of the hundreds of ideas that
have resulted from the project, including buildings designed so that the
interior light spills out onto adjacent sidewalks and roadways,
recycling private illumination into public lighting.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Keynote speaker Marco Bevolo discussed the international city.people.light project that has involved architects, artists, designers and urban planners in ideas for more livable cities.
Other design ideas Bevolo discussed were Media Windows, in which
video is projected onto windows for passers-by to see, and a European
plaza in which a dramatic beam of blue light provides the focal point
where a statue once stood. In Poland, he said, workshop participants
came up with the idea of lighting some of the underpasses located
throughout cities to make them usable at night.
These places are pitch-dark, and citizens dont go there because
its dangerous, Bevolo said. As soon as lighting was added to one,
families arrived and children spontaneously turned the space into a
playground, creating the most touching moment of my life, he said.
About the symposium
In introducing the Green Light symposium, Perry Chapman, professor
and associate chair of art history at UD, noted that the department will
mark its 50th anniversary in 2016 at a time when the arts and humanities are increasingly intersecting with the sciences.
We need to look to a future in which such collaborations continue and expand, she said.
George Watson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, also
emphasized the connections among arts, humanities and sciences in his
welcoming remarks. A physicist, Watson said he worked as a laser
spectroscopist, seeking optically based devices to replace electronic
ones. As such, he said, light played an important part in his own
Watson also thanked the symposiums supporters and speakers, and
particularly recognized Carol Nigro and her committee of volunteers for
their tireless efforts in organizing the event. Nigro, who received a
masters degree in 1997 and a doctorate in 2009, has collaborated with
UD faculty, alumni and supporters to form the Friends of Art History, a
fundraising and advocacy group that promotes the study of the visual
arts at UD.
Other speakers at the symposium were Peter Y. Ngai, vice president of
OLED (organic light emitting diode) lighting at Acuity Brands; Giana
Phelan, director of business development of OLEDWorks; Ricardo Rivera, a
UD alumnus, visual artist, filmmaker and creator of the Nightscape
installation on view through Oct. 31 at Longwood Gardens; Anne
Militello, founder of Vortex Lighting in Los Angeles and head of
lighting programs at the California Institute of the Arts; Don Slater,
co-founder of the Configuring Light/Staging the Social research group at
the London School of Economics; and Matt Doty, associate professor of
materials science and engineering at UD.
The final session of the day was a panel discussion among those
responsible for executing Philadelphias June 5th Memorial Park, a
project to honor the six lives lost in the collapse of the Salvation
Army store in 2013.
Green Light: Prospects in Lighting Design and Technology is the
second in Art and Science: Connections and Intersections, a series of
symposiums dedicated to the seamless connections between the visual arts
and the sciences.
By examining topics that bind research in both the arts and sciences,
the symposiums are part of UDs efforts to familiarize a diverse
audience from business, technology, the arts and academia, as well as
alumni and friends of the University, with its interdisciplinary
activities and its commitment to public humanities.
Green Light was a collaboration among the Department of Art
History, the Center for Material Culture Studies, the Harker
Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Laboratory and the College of
Funding was provided by UDs Office of the Provost, the colleges of
Arts and Sciences and of Engineering, the departments of Art History and
of Art and Design, the Center for Material Culture Studies and the
Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center. Additional support was
provided by Connections and Intersections sponsor Penn Lighting
Associates and by Digital Filaments.