Night Time Is The Right Time  

As lifestyles and working days move into night-time, architects, planners and citizens can not only rethink how we use infrastructure more efficiently but also to re-map cities.

Nightscaping for projects such as the master plan for a 21km long section of the Huangpu River in Shanghai uses the reflective properties of water to redraw the diurnal landscape for nocturnal living. The Illuminated River project for London may also deliver something similar: the winning concept will use light and colour to link the city’s 17 bridges (it is currently in detailed design development).

Such plans also challenge the development of more energy-efficient lighting systems, such as such as those proposed by the awardwinning social design lab Studio Roosegaarde. This re-thinking of infrastructure is not only about energy efficiency and new technology. Designers on the ground are already working to encourage more involved civic engagement with night-time. Organisations such as Light Follows Behaviour work with citizens in creating night spaces to help communities thrive. The unfamiliarity of the emerging 24-hour culture also makes radical interventions and design feel less strange, such as the experimental thinking in Direct Line’s drone app project Fleetlights.

New thinking on infrastructure will underpin how cities deliver a sustainable vision for a new kind of night-time living. We can’t just expect to use infrastructure more: we have to use it better.


Light Follows Behaviour, Shadwell Estate, Hackney

Distinctions in social class are signalled not just by clothes or through the things we buy, but surprisingly in such immaterial things as the different glow emanating from private and social housing – the latter defined by stark bulkhead lighting. In collaboration with the Peabody Estate (one of London’s oldest and largest housing providers) and the residents, Light Follows Behaviour designed lighting that created a sense of safety at night and an expanded experience of landscape and environment, pushing the boundaries of accepted social housing practices. Key to their success is the involvement of citizens in their projects. Light Follows Behaviour encourages everyone to participate in creating new night-time identities.


Van Gogh Road, Studio Roosegaarde, Eindhoven

Developments in materials and technology will forge new relations between night and day, both in how we use infrastructure and how we experience its material qualities. Inspired by Van Gogh’s masterpiece Starry Night, Daan Roosegaarde designed a 600 metre (656 yards) long cycling route illuminated by thousands of twinkling stones that charge by day and illuminate by night, creating a visual effect reminiscent of Van Gogh’s painting.


Huango River Development, Concepto, East Bank of Shanghai

The rapid urban development in China means urban planners and designers can re-design nightscapes to reflect the diverse ephemerality of nightlife. In June 2016, the Paris-based landscape architecture studio TER (alongside Jacques Ferrier Architectures, Sensual City Studio and Concepto) won the competition for the development of the right bank of the Huangpu River. For this regeneration strategy over 21 kilometres through the heart of Shanghai, Concepto is designing the night space into lighting layers that shimmer and fade. With its water surface acting as a mirror, the Huangpo River will celebrate and project night rhythms.



The House of Music Area, Aalborg. Åf Lighting and C.F. Møller

The Coop Himmelblau-designed concert hall opened in Aalborg, Denmark in Spring 2014. In 2016, the city won the international ‘City.People.Light’ award (given to designs that use light to enhance the lives of citizens) for its innovative ‘House of Music Area’. ÅF Lighting is the lighting designer behind the project and C.F. Møller is the project’s landscape architect. The design is themed by the musical characteristics of the House of Music and the Royal Academy of Music. This night-identity has been crucial in fostering a sense of space out of the previous industrialised zone


Tv ilight, Eeneind (‘Van Gogh Village’)

 In response to a brief from Dutch town Eeneind, TV iLight (a Dutch company specialising in developing data and sensor technology) installed sensor-based units on street lights throughout the village. The lights dim to 20% when there is no street activity and increase their brightness to 100% when detecting a pedestrian, cyclist or a car. A wireless mesh network enables sensors to communicate with neighbouring units, signalling them to also increase brightness. Thus, the night-time citizen directly shapes the space as they move through it and with greater comfort and safety. 


Smart Highway, Studio Roosegaarde 

Studio Roosegaarde (named after its founder, Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde) is a social design lab that has captured media attention with design projects that reframe conventional approaches to urban problems and urban futures. Smart Highway was a collaboration between Roosegaarde and Dutch construction and developers Heijmans that proposes smart lighting, harvesting energy, and traffic signs that adapt to the road situation to improve sustainability and road safety. 


Fleetlights, Direct Line

This experimental project by insurance company Direct Line was driven by the belief that technology will drive a strategic shift, from restitution to prevention, in insurance companies. The ‘Light my Way’ prototype proposes a service of interconnected drones equipped with high-powered on-board lights (ordered like a taxi directly from the user’s smartphone), for late-night uses in areas without good public lighting. The speculative design project – with fully operational technology developed by Mission Planner technology expert Michael Oborne, and other technical specialists – reframes existing models for thinking about lighting solutions in the age of ever cheaper advanced technologies.