18 April 2010


How do communities address blight and change its perception from negative to positive? Vacancy does not determine abandonment. Yet, communities are attempting to circumvent its negative effects by implementing unique solutions. Three case studies investigate each of the vacancy typologies outlined - 1) vacant lots, 2) construction sites, and 3) abandoned buildings/storefronts. In all circumstances, they address filling in that empty void with a meaningful element to spark dialogue and engage the surroundings meaningfully. Their success or failure depends on the social and environmental transformation fulfilled through implementation.


Vacant properties are a national occurrence. The phenomenon produces consequences that include stressed municipalities and blight. My position is that lighting can reclaim a deteriorating public environment by securing a vacant site throughout different stages within its development cycle.

    Franklin Avenue – a mixed use street caught in the economic downturn - in North Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York, contains three vacancy typologies:

   cleared parcels that await to be infilled by a program or structure

   buildings under development or renovation

   spaces temporarily unoccupied

 All three typologies address the cyclical nature of a given property’s life. The application of light on blight re-examines temporal permanence and questions its future, unknown manifestation. Its treatment shifts perceptions from a neglected property to a space of positive opportunity. Light informs and transforms, while mending the urban fabric.

    Rather than promoting the gentrification of a neighborhood, the aim of this project is to initiate a dialogue on vacancy within an urban setting. Light helps us discover what Dolores Hayden has called “the power of ordinary urban landscapes to nurture citizens’ public memory, to encompass shared time in the form of shared territory(1).”

      The site’s twelve blocks divide into four zones. With timed controls, each zone will light intermittently over a 15-minute period at the start of each hour after dusk. Drama unfolds as vacancies briefly reveal their potential and then return to their current status quo. As an exploration with a sequence of illuminated planes, light highlights a neighborhood’s forgotten past and its positive future, thereby exposing a property’s changing role in a community.

1 Hayden, Dolores. The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History.  (Cambridge, MIT Press, 1995), 9.