Grid Off Lights On_4

Grid Off Lights On_8

When Sandy hit New York, the lights went off leaving over 18,000 New Yorkers in the darkness for five days. This disruption of power extended beyond the economic or productive sphere; it permeated every aspect of urban life and created a fundamental rupture with the perception of urban space. The urban environment is fundamentally a product of its lighting as it produces social space. However, as climate change is expected to make such disruptions far more common, now is the time to strategize models for lighting based on the principles of distribution and localization we find in natural systems.


Grid off; Lights on is a course structured as an environmental technology workshop aiming to address questions of urban illumination by developing experimental lighting structures that generate their energy autonomously detached from the urban grid of power supply. The course will function as a thinktank bringing together architecture, engineering, art and humanities students in a cross-disciplinary platform to work collaboratively and create lighting strategies with the use of solar energy, wind energy, human and mechanical energy and bioluminescence. These off-the-grid systems will illuminate streets, educate the community about light-related issues and cultivate an urgently needed dialogue on off-the-grid lighting technology as an urban climate adaptation strategy. Rather than focusing on the purely technological aspect of lighting, this project will address the social relations that inform and are informed by the presence of light.


The product of this research will be an experimental non-electrical off-grid lighting prototype installed at the E. 4th St Cultural District, two blocks south of the Cooper Union campus for the occasion of the Ideas City Festival in May 2013. Students from all schools at Cooper Union participate in a cross-disciplinary thinktank with the aim to design, fabricate and install an experimental lighting prototypical installation in the urban environment, celebrating the improvement of urban life. It showcases student talent in a key venue, while expanding the conversation on a timely issue and exhibiting academic research to a broad audience of citizens and visitors.



Grid off; Lights on is conducted through the Feltman Lighting seminar, taught in the spring 2013 semester at Cooper Union by professor Lydia Kallipoliti, who holds the 2012-2013 Lighting Chair. The collaborative installation is under the auspices of the New Museum (as an officially exhibited project for the Ideas City Festival) and is part of the SUSTAIN, a collaborative research project of the Cooper Union Institute of Sustainable Design and FABnyc, a nonprofit leadership organization for the E. 4th St Cultural District. Grid off; Lights on is generously funded by the Cooper Union Institute of Sustainable and Cooper Union’s Benjamin Menschel Faculty Fellowship. FABnyc offers the urban block as a test bed for the development of ideas and lighting initiatives.

Special thanks for helping us  realize the project to


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