Architectural and Urban Illumination

Researcher: Dietrich Neumann

For the past 20 years Dietrich Neumann has been fascinated with the illumination of architecture and urban space. His first book about the topic "Architecture of the Night" came out in 2002 (the title was coined in 1930 by one of the pioneers of the idea, Brown Alumnus and architect Raymond Hood), followed by Luminous Buildings (2006), The Structure of Light (2011) and finally Cities of Light co-edited with Sandy Isenstadt and Margaret Maile (2015), which provides a first overview of modern urban illumination, a development that allows human wakefulness to colonize the night, doubling the hours available for purposeful and industrious activities.

Professor Neumann's 2020 essay, "Space Oddity" will appear in a German publication called Stadt Raum Detail (Berlin: DOM Publisher) Wolfgang Sonne (Ed.) . His article focuses on  the political and historical reasons behind the unusual appearance of Berlin at night when seen from space. The nocturnal photograph that the Astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield took of Berlin a few years ago still shows a clear difference between the former East and West Berlin, almost 30 years after the wall came down. During the Berlin Blockade of 1948, the American general Lucius Clay had ordered the cutting of all gas lines from the power stations in the western part of the city to the East. Communist East Berlin had to retool its urban illumination in the following years and switched from gas to electricity, ultimately settling on the cheap sodium vapor lights with their characteristic monochromatic golden glow (still quite common in the US as well). The western part of the city kept its 40000 gas lanterns, which became a much beloved part of the urban experience. More and more, both gas and sodium vapor lights are replaced with the much cheaper and environmentally sounder LED lights. The visual memory of the city's dramatic postwar history is slowly fading away.

While at the Space Station, Commander Hadfield (who provided the photograph) also recorded a cover version of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."