Home > Research > Activities > Nocturnal Spaces: Rediscovering an Architecture...
View graph of relations

Nocturnal Spaces: Rediscovering an Architecture of Darkness

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


The interplay of light and dark shapes our relationship with place. At night, artificial illumination can have profound affects upon our experience of architecture, both as interior space and urban realm. This talk examines the city of Manchester in the United Kingdom, its pioneering industrialisation and subsequent legacy of an ‘architecture of darkness’. It then explores recent developments to ask how we might develop nocturnal spaces that are convivial, inclusive, and ecologically sustainable. In doing so, it aims to demonstrate how such an understanding can enable us to rediscover an architecture of darkness as integral to shaping the future of urban nights.

About the symposium:
For centuries, architectural theory, discourse and agency have been based on day and solar paradigms. References to night in Vitruvius’ De architectura, largely considered the founding text of western architectural theory, are residual and the same absence can be identified in the Renaissance treatises by Leon Battista Alberti or Andrea Palladio. It was not until the 19th and 20th centuries that the successive invention and institutionalization of artificial light in private and public spaces gradually transformed the agency of night in the architectural discipline. Never mind that leisure is mostly associated with night or that work activities increasingly occur in night shifts. Today we sleep one hour less than one hundred years ago. We keep working at night, socializing at night, living at night: time has become elastic. Since the invention of artificial light, the urban environment has seen human activity expand and intensify, forever transforming the means of material and cultural production. From casinos to nightclubs, movie theaters to corner shops, the identity of contemporary human beings and their domestic, professional and cultural spaces are inseparable from night.

By analyzing and studying “night scenes”, Nocturnal History of Architecture hopes to show how night is not only an area of precarity and insecurity (haunted), but also a laboratory for the development of new forms of living. The colloquium organized by the new Master in Interior Architecture at HEAD-Gen.ve proposes to use the lens of different environments and typologies that, throughout history, have shaped our notions of architecture, space and life. The seminar traces a path from ancient to early modern times, and from modernity to present time, using the nocturnal spaces that have determined current notions of architecture to question those same concepts. Over the course of four sessions, the colloquium will generate productive frictions and offer opportunities to expand our understanding of what architecture at night was and can be.

Event (Symposium)

TitleNocturnal History of Architecture
LocationHEAD-Genève Campus Auditorium Building D, Bd James-Fazy 15
Degree of recognitionInternational event