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Numéro 87 Septembre 2000

Nuits et lumières

Thierry Paquot
Sensing urban night in the XIXth and XXth centuries

City histories merge into the conquest
of day over night. Romantic night owls
have resisted it, surrealists have set
dreams in it, existentialists have seen in
it the emptiness of existence and situationists
an ultimate sign of alienation.
In today’s world of entertainment, the
prostitute, an eminent figure of urban
night, retreats into the space of the virtual
screen. But shadowy zones remain
vital to the imagining being.

Michel Pinçon, Monique Pinçon-Charlot
Paris nights

A city that lives at night is a real city,
for in doing so, it marks its liberation
from natural rhythms. Paris would not
be a capital and a tourist showplace
without its busy nightlife. Its nights are
increasingly patronized by a variety of
populations, to the extent that avantgarde
night owls are aspiring to reoccupy
the daytime.

Anne Vega
Sleepless in the hospital
Christophe Apprill
Dance halls, a nocturnal world in the afternoon

In big cities, dance halls attract a population
of fifty and sixty-year-olds by
reproducing a night atmosphere. These
closed spaces, which challenge the pernicious
effects of ageing through a twilight
effect, offer a meeting-place outside
the constraints of wedlock. For
many people, the dance hall is a return
to the world of youthful nights-out,
with its transgressive codes and its
dreams of love.

Laurent Gaissad
Does the night air set people free ?

Meeting-places in a few cities in the south of
France. Clandestine night-time sexuality
venues, which develop alongside urban
amenities, often have to fight for a place.
These venues, which have little to do
with sexual commerce in broad daylight,
are nonetheless frequented by
players with many different codes. And
their fluidity over space and time
demonstrates that urbanity cannot be
dissociated from the quest for shadowy

Florence Bouillon
Night-time stopovers : Egyptian snack bars in Marseilles

In the centre of Marseilles, a few snack
bars stay open at night. They are run by
Egyptian migrants and cater for a varied
patronage. The night-time snack bar
provides a living environment for lonely
migrants, a meeting-place for young
people on a night out, and a social break
for night workers. Although stigmatized
by a certain type of press as a centre of
insecurity, in fact it enables a public
space to be opened at night.

Jean-Michel Deleuil, Jean-Yves Toussaint
From security to advertising, the art of lighting the city

From ancient times, lighting the city at
night has been a social need as regards
both security and prestige. Modern
urban lighting policies have long been
conditioned by functional traffic objectives.
Today’s lighting plans respect and
rehabilitate a multi-purpose public

Florent Gathérias
The policeman at night
Sophie Mosser, Jean-Pierre Devars
What « freedom of the city » for urban lighting ?

Half of urban time is played out under
the spotlights. Urban lighting policies,
which are dominated by traffic and
safety concerns, have recently opened
up to the environments of inhabited or
transited areas. The nocturnal urban
models on which they are based may be
called into question in the light of a better
knowledge of the way public spaces
function from dusk to dawn.

Sandra Fiori
Reconquering nocturnal space lighting designers

Designing city lighting systems has
become a professional occupation that
combines technical innovation with
the scenography of public spaces. The
fine-tuning of city lights meets many
criteria of aesthetic comfort and cultural
identification. The diversity of
nocturnal spaces and their practices
still remains the blind spot in designing.

Luc Gwiazdzinski
Night - the last frontier

Night-time in the city is a little-studied
subject that nonetheless abounds with
economic, social and cultural activities.
Differences between sleeping and
waking hours in the city change over
time. The taking over of night by day,
like a new frontier, is an analyser of the
social tensions besetting the city.

Nathalie Réto, Jean-Yves Dartiguenave
Night correspondents

Nocturnal problems requiring professional
action. Various nocturnal disturbances in residential
co-location in high-density housing
estates have caused a mobile team
of watchmen - « night correspondents »
- to be set up. In Rennes, these correspondents
act as intermediaries between
complainants and emergency medical
and police services. Their purpose is
more one of field assistance than security

Hélène Bretin
Cleaning, at the borderland between day and night
François Ménard
Night watch

Digression around the subject of night
correspondents. The purpose of new night correspondents,
who are neither social workers,
security guards nor building technicians,
is to overcome the shortage of services
and support at night in large social housing
complexes. Ongoing experiences
follow two types of logic : the nocturnal
extension of locally pre-existing services
and the creation of a relatively
independent ad hoc structure. Despite
these institutional differences, the correspondents
settle their nightly petty
problems and in doing so, highlight and
gain acceptance of the polyfunctional
nature of a city.

Magali Laurencin
A thousand and one Mediterranean nights

Watching the city on the movies. Movies on Mediterranean cities at night
oscillate between violence and tenderness.
Nightlife, the second life of the
city, sets the scene for dramas of passion.
Its recurrent themes are wandering,
the loss of landmarks and the transgression
of standards.