1Just like the human body, cities are bound by the rhythm of the transition between day and night. We are familiar with the city in daytime and have studied it closely, but the nighttime of the city is too often forgotten. In Northern regions, where daylight is fleeting in the wintertime, cities have long carried out “daytime” activities in darkness. However, the colonization of the night is occurring in other regions as well. In a society that is rethinking its nychthemera, the night has a lot to offer the day and the future.
2Today, this neglected space-time is very much coveted. More and more, human activities are unfolding during the night, constructing a new domain of work and leisure. Our hyper-modern society, characterized by disruptions to the social division of time, and marked by the individualization of behavior, changes in working rhythms and a new importance accorded to free time, has transcended the barrier of darkness. The nighttime city, as a clarification of the day, reveals the human condition and requires our full attention.
3The urban night, a long-forgotten dimension of the city, is now a central field of interest for researchers, communities and town councilors. Even better, it has become a space-time of innovation in relation to which town planning and the sustainable city can be rethought.
4According to Genesis, “God separated the light from the darkness. He called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day.” The Creator began by establishing temporal limits. Only then did “He separate[d] the waters [...] from the waters [...] a second day. [...] separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above [...]. God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas”. Beyond the founding myths and beliefs of human societies, the alternation of day and night has structured life on Earth, conditioned the way our societies work and establilshed the totality of our individual and collective pace. In today’s almost-won conquest of the world-system, night has long remained a space-time in which human activity has ultimately made little investment, a closed-off territory difficult to access, a final frontier (Gwiazdzinski, 2005), an inner world to be explored.
5The night has long distilled all possible negative valuations (Durand, 1963). Agitation, impurity and noise are linked to darkness (Bachelard 1957). Night falls and day rises. The devil wears black. “The night of time” is a very distant period of which we know nothing. The path to progress always appears to lead towards the light. Still today, “we legitimately ask that thought dissipate the darkness and obscurity” (Edgar Morin, 1990). The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was enlightened by the light of reason. Valuations of the night are most often made in terms of light. We like to “banish the darkness”, “make light”, “shed light on the situation”, “bring to light” and even appreciate things “in the light of day”.
6As a period of darkness symbolized by curfews, by the halting of all activity and the closing of city gates, night-time was considered for centuries to be a time of social rest. In many languages, eight nocturnal hours almost seem like a negation of the day, an invitation for us to follow suit. Noite (Não-oito) Nuit (Non-huit), Night (No-Eight), Nacht (Nein-Acht); Notte; Noche: the night nurtures paradoxes and seems to take a dark pleasure in erasing clues. Those who want to capture it know there is always a game of chance involved which makes the night evade any possible equation. Deprived of half of its existence, as though amputated, the night has inspired poets, served as a refuge to wrongdoers and troubled the power that sought to control it. Over the centuries, man has embarked on a conquest of this “land’s end”.
7“The Latin word Nox designates a period of time in which the sun disappears in the horizon” (Zedler’s Dictionnary). This definition is no longer apt to describe the night of our cities. It is necessary to go further, even if the night doesn’t unveil itself that easily. The spread of public lighting and the assertion of political power have enabled the progressive conquest of the urban night. Within just a few centuries, we have gone from the “city on duty” (safety, healthcare) where activity remained a supervised exception, to the leisure activities of the elite (18th century), then to the democratization of the festive night and then to the democratization of the festive night and the all-night-long in the late 19th century. The conquest continued over the course of the 20th century. Since the early 90s, the colonization of the night is accelerating under the continuous pressure of economic and other networks (Gwiazdzinski, 2007). The city is liberating itself from natural constraints and living according to an increasingly expanded sense of time. Urban life now requires the permanent availability of services, for which our institutions are not prepared.
8There is now life after the day. Emancipating themselves from natural constraints, our metropolises are coming to life under the influence of increasingly desynchronized lifestyles, reduced working times and new technology in lighting and communication. Other populations, other points of convergence, other limits and other frontiers appear in the city, which becomes a space-time of investigation, creativity and experimentation. It is the very economy of the day that takes an interest in the night, contributing to both its “diurnization” (Gwiazdzinski, 2005) and "nocturnization" (Koslowski, 2011), the final phase of the artificialization of the city.
9The light has gradually taken possession of urban space, partially erasing the menacing darkness of our nights and allowing us to pursue daytime activities. Lighting has shifted from a safety measure to embellishment. The sounds and lights and illuminations of buildings multiply, covering the cities of the world with the same blanket of yellow light. “Lighting designers” sculpt the night and give a nocturnal identity to our cities. Another city is staged, with its own lighting, set design and new actors. Illuminated squares, well-lit streets and business districts are highlighted in order to attract investors, executives or tourists. Everyone wants everything, everywhere and at any time of the day or night, without ever calculating its cost. Summer opening times enable us to take advantage of public urban space for longer. Daytime activities can continue into the night, contributing to strategies for urban attractiveness.
10Industrial companies work constantly to make their facilities profitable and, in most sectors, night shifts are becoming the norm. Over 15% of employees work during the night in France, or almost 3.5 million people, a figure that has continued to grow since the 1990s. An increasing number of service companies are converting to “24 hours a day, 7 days a week”, a now-commonplace advertisement. A large number of businesses are pushing back their hours into the evening. In stores, evening shopping is becoming ever more popular. The late-night supply of leisure is evolving. The night has become an economic sector in its own right. Automatic vending machines are multiplying throughout urban space.
11“Special nights” are taking hold everywhere. Evening parties start later and later, to the despair of night club owners. The media curfew is over, radio and television networks have long operated continuously and the Internet means we can surf through the night. The media has transformed the night and it, in turn, has been transformed by the Internet, by “mobiquity” – the ability of a user on the go to connect to a network with no constraints in terms of time, location or terminal – and the endless variety of digital media forms (Straw, 2016).
12The night, which for a long time was a protected space governed by specific laws, is becoming banal, particularly with the authorization granted in 2000 for women to work during the night or for the undertaking of terrorism-related searches.. As a result of these developments, the urban night defined as a time for pause represents no more than a three-hour interval in major metropolises, between 1.30 and 4.30am. Spatially, the image of the archipelago is taking hold. For a few hours, a new geography of activity is created, erecting a partition in the urban space: a city that sleeps; a city that works continuously; a city that enjoys itself; an empty city, no more than a shell for the activities of the daytime city. Nocturnal centralities emerge, often different from the daytime ones. As we advance into the night, the urban offer diminishes, the city shrinks and huddles around its historic center. Illuminations and activity are concentrated in these neighborhoods, which become the main centers of attraction (Gwiazdzinski, 2005). The presumed freedom of the night owl thus appears rather illusory.
13New structures are being set up and new players are emerging to colonize newly conflictual, “polychronic” spaces. Tensions between inhabitants, communities and city neighborhoods living at several different rhythms are becoming more intense. Many authors have explored some of the ruinous consequences of the expanding non-stop processes of twenty first-century capitalism (Crary, 2007). Pressure is increasing on the night, crystallizing fundamental economic, political and social challenges. Between the international time of traders and the local time of residents, between the constant city of the economy and the circadian city of society, between places of flux and places of stock, tensions exist, conflicts erupt and boundaries are established that allow the observer to identify the “front line”, the advances, resistances or retreats. Caught between liberty and insecurity, the city that sleeps, the city that plays and the city that works do not always coexist peacefully. Tensions appear in the archipelago of urban nights. New struggles and new boundaries are emerging to undermine coexistence. Under pressure, this ephemeral and cyclic space-time becomes a place for innovation for those individuals and organizations forced to adapt.
14Nighttime has always been conducive to creativity. It is often at this time that we "set the world to rights". This is when solutions are found that evoke DIY, "craftiness" (De Certeau, 1988), and transgression, as well as cooperation. This is when a "day-to-day expertise" is deployed, the knowledge and skills exclusive to the elite, even the "specific night skills" where night workers combine resourcefulness with versatility, as in the hospital sector (Perrault Soliveres, 2002). Confronted with these rapid changes, metropolises are adapting themselves. Users and other actors are experimenting with the night and transforming it. The night has become an open platform for innovation. Through public policies and everyday innovations, solutions emerging in the night may come to be of interest to the day. Everywhere, new research seeks to comprehend the complexity of urban nights: their activities, temporalities, territories (Boffi, Colleoni, Del Greco, 2016), culture, economy, environment, tourism, creativity, quality of life, lighting, conflict management or social justice.
15Along with and prior to these mutations, a new field of research – that of "night studies" (Straw, 2016) – has emerged over the past few years. Multidisciplinary by nature, it brings together historians, geographers, town planners, philosophers, specialists in culture and communication, political scientists and architects (Armengaud and Cianchetta 2009; Bronfen, 2013; Bureau, 1997; Cabantous, 2009; Castellini, 2003; Delattre, 2000; Dewdney, 1994; Ekirch, 2005; Gwiazdzinski, 2003, 2005; Narboni, 2012; Palmer, 2000; Roberts, 2009; Sagahon et Léon, 2014; Talbot, 2007, etc.). As proof of this new interest, symposia and seminars are increasing in number around the world, and a great many dissertations have been submitted or are being written on the night in the fields of geography, town planning and development.
16Public authorities are attempting to retain control of the night (regulation for raves, curfews, municipal by-laws prohibiting the use of mopeds, etc.) while at the same time implementing numerous initiatives (lighting, free festive events, transportation, childcare centers, etc.) to make urban nights more accessible and hospitable, thereby participating in the growing flexibility. We cannot yet talk of nighttime public policies in the sense of a series of coordinated actions, implemented with the aim of attaining a modification or evolution of a given situation (Thoenig, 2010). On the other hand, we can observe that public initiatives are multiplying everywhere and becoming part of a dual logic of an improvement in residents’ quality of life and a development in territorial marketing, at a time when nocturnal activity is becoming an important criterion for attractiveness.
17A large number of metropolises, such as Montreal (2011), are seeking to go beyond the “night of data” by developing diagnostics. Brussels and Lyon have set up a “night observatory” that brings together different skills. Elsewhere, in places like Geneva and Milan, nighttime switchovers have allowed sensitive and shared diagnostics to be implemented. Groups are now coming together to demand the consideration of the night in public policies and no longer simply to complain about nuisances. “General Estates on the night” have been organized in numerous cities upon the initiative of local authorities, under pressure from different groups. In Paris (2010) they have brought together 1,000 participants – citizens, district councilors, residents’ groups, stakeholders of the night, researchers and elected representatives. Other cities such as Geneva, Lausanne and Toulouse have followed suit. In São Paulo, Brazil, a collective of artists organized the “Séminario da Noite Paulistana” (“Seminar on the São Paulo Night”) with the public and private stakeholders of the urban night, writing a "Manifesto of the Night" (Gwiazdzinski, 2014). These mobilizations of citizens sometimes take the form of elections for the “mayors of the night”. Since 2003 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, so-called stakeholders of the night have elected their own Nachtbrugermeester, who is supported by a wide network of volunteers tasked with relaying nighttime grievances, and has an “ambassador role”, acting as a liaison between the night and elected representatives. In 2016, Amsterdam held a “Night Mayor Summit”. During this event night mayors, civil servants, entrepreneurs, the creative industries and research institutions were brought together around five main themes: Night Time Economy, Public Health & Politics, Redefining Urban Spaces, Mobility and Road to Night Mayor. In France, several cities including Paris, Toulouse and Nantes also have a Night Mayor. In Geneva, a "Grand Council of the Night" has been set up; an independent group made up of professionals, enthusiasts and specialists, whose aim is to promote "a rich, varied and lively nightlife through the establishment of favorable framework conditions". In 1999, in an exploration of the "territories of the shadows" (Aghina, Gwiazdzinski, 1999), we called for the election of a "Night Mayor" in each municipality of over 10,000 residents.
18As of the 90s, the United Kingdom was ahead on the issue of the "economy of the night" (Roberts, Eldridge, 2009; Roberts, 2016) and promotion with cities, with the “First National Conference on the Night-time Economy” in Manchester in 1994 and the first steps taken in this city and in Leeds in particular. The conference brought together researchers, artists, nighttime entrepreneurs, Manchester police representatives and city administrators in order to rethink the way the urban night could be measured, regulated and designed. In 2002, the study "Late-night London. Planning and Managing the Late-Night Economy" for Greater London, insisted on the challenges of the 24/7 city. Other studies were also conducted in London (London Plan, 2004), Gloucester (2005) and Leicester (2005). In New York, the "New York Nightlife Association" (2004) proved that the economy of the night generated billions of dollars of revenue and employed almost 100,000 people. In Australia, cities such as Sydney and Melbourne have also explored this economic dimension.
19From the candle to the LED, the light has gradually taken possession of the urban space, partially erasing the menacing darkness of our nights and allowing us to pursue daytime activities. Thanks to these technical innovations and the desire to control the night, public lighting has become widespread and its function has gradually changed, moving from safety to embellishment. The number of building illuminations is multiplying and "lighting designers” or “artists" sculpt the nights and give our cities a nocturnal identity. There has been a development in public lighting policies, in particular with the implementation of "lighting plans" and schematics (Narboni, 2012). In parallel, the sound and light shows that appeared in the 1950s have multiplied on an urban scale for cultural and touristic reasons.
20Around the world, the general trend is for an increase in the periodicity, range and frequency of public transit. Although some cities – such as Berlin and Barcelona – have implemented a 24/7 metro service at the weekends, it is the expansion and increased regularity of night buses that provide nighttime public transport between 1am and 5am (Gwiazdzinski, 2007). In the Paris area, the Noctilien network has met with great success, and throughout the city self-service bicycles are very widely used during the night. Since 2016 in London, some of the underground lines are open all through the night, both during the week and at the weekend, in order to develop the economy, tourism, investments and job creation in the capital. The “participatory marches” started in Canada to challenge the inequality of women’s access to the night have led to work on the safety of nighttime routes.
21In major metropolises, the trend is for an improvement in public space at night. Since the summer of 2016, nine additional parks are now open 24 hours a day, representing 83 additional hectares. To respond to the new nighttime uses of public space and combat the problem of urination in the street, there are 150 coin-operated public lavatories with 24-hour accessibility. "In addition to improving men’s and women’s access to this service, this decision is part of the City’s desire to ensure that Parisian nights remain a time of festivity and conviviality, without causing a nuisance to residents, especially in neighborhoods with bustling nightlife," explains Frédéric Hocquard, Councillor of Paris and Nightlife Delegate.
22The authorities have always sought to control the night, in particular through the deployment of forces of order and the development of lighting. These strategies continue, with the addition of other safety devices such as video surveillance. Besides the deployment of classic forces of order (national police, municipal police, etc.), mediation is an important element of the public policies (Pieroni, 2016) being deployed during the night in metropolises and medium-sized cities (Mallet, Burger, 2016). The experience of "Night Correspondents" in the suburban neighborhoods of Rennes or Strasbourg has expanded to a great number of cities. In Paris, these mediators provide a preventive and benevolent presence in public spaces every day between 4pm and midnight. In Barcelona and Montreal, "whisperers" have been deployed in front of nightclubs and other establishments in order to reduce noisiness. In Paris, the creation of the "Pierrot de la nuit" (Night Mime) is a unique form of this artistic and social mediation that aims to protect the quality of nightlife by preventing noise problems around places that are busy during the night (bars, concert venues, night clubs, etc.). It responds to a dual challenge: guaranteeing the respect for residents’ quality of life and promoting working conditions for those who do so at night.
23Lille was one of the first cities to launch a "charter of the night" that attempts to reconcile nighttime activities, maintenance of the city’s attractiveness and residents’ resting time. Lyon, Strasbourg, Grenoble and a great deal of other cities have followed suit in order to improve the dialogue between residents, establishments and consumers. The point of these charters is broadly to regulate conflicts of use between those who are sleeping, those who are working and those who are having fun. They establish a framework for discussion, dialogue, collaboration and consultation between the different people involved. They set the rules that frame, regulate and manage the development of nightlife as much as possible. In Lyon, the "charter for the quality of nightlife", produced by the Regional Prefect, is an agreement made between the City and establishments open at night: bars, pubs, show venues, clubs and fully licensed restaurants.
24Between artistic discoveries and new urban tourisms, the nighttime calendar is often made fuller by public authority initiatives, such as "Night of the Arts" in Helsinki, "Night of the Museums" in Munich, "White Nights" in St Petersburg, Paris, Rome, Brussels, Montreal and Naples and the "European Night of Science" in Berlin and elsewhere. All trade fairs and shows now have their "nighttime hours" and, "nighttime sales" attract crowds, while grand openings for new stores often take place in the evening. These innovations are permeating every urban level. In sports halls and function rooms, "Volleyball Nights" follow on from "Nurses’ Nights". In villages, "night markets" are now an integral part of local and tourist development dynamics.
25Throughout Europe, legislation of the evening opening hours of businesses is becoming increasingly flexible. In the United Kingdom, pubs are now allowed to remain open after 11pm. In Germany, nighttime opening hours for businesses in train stations are gradually transforming these places into "oases of night services". In Poland, superstores are open 24 hours a day. In England, only supermarket hours are regulated. In Belgium, a law has provided a legal framework for the famous “night shops”. In Denmark, traders are now free to choose their own opening hours during the week, while in Spain there is total freedom. In Italy, each municipality decides its opening hours, as in Portugal, where places can remain open until midnight.
26New services have pushed evening opening hours back. For years, Helsinki has offered nighttime childcare centers to facilitate the lives of those who work at night, and other cities including Lyon have followed this example. In Oviedo, Spain, the opening of social centers and sports halls in the evening has helped reduce juvenile delinquency. Numerous libraries and universities are open at night in the United States and now in some cities in the Netherlands. In Rome, a citizens advice bureau responds to the problems of both residents and visitors to the capital, 24 hours a day.
27Solutions provided for the homeless should also be added to the sparse list of initiatives that might help to make our nighttime cities more human, accessible and hospitable. The main problem remains the lack of long-term accommodation structures for the homeless. According to a report by the French National Assembly, in 2012 there were only 80,000 places in accommodation for the 133,000 homeless people recorded in the census.
28Through some of these advances, we can see that the night is a formidable reservoir of creativity for the day.
29The juxtaposition of viewpoints brings hope for new sorts of hybridization (Gwiazdzinski, 2016), new projects between researchers, professionals, and public or private stakeholders building new approaches to sustainable development.
30City lights come at a great cost to the planet and now inhibit us from enjoying the spectacle of a starry sky. A threatened part of our heritage, the night is becoming a symbol in the fight for sustainable development and against climate change in the battle against "light pollution". These battles are waged in particular by militant astronomers who are seeing their work compromised by nocturnal illuminations, or by organizations such as the International Dark-Sky Association, the “Association de protection du ciel nocturne” in France and “CieloBuio” in Italy (Challéat, Lapostolle, Bénos, 2016). Operations such as "from day to night" whereby a large number of cities switch off their lights to allow inhabitants to rediscover the stars, are an alternative to the "white nights" which allowed public spaces to be reconquered during the night through events with an artistic slant. Elsewhere, the quality of starry skies has attracted a new form of tourism.
31As an ephemeral and cyclical space of life, a final frontier to be explored and an original switch over to be preserved, the night still challenges us. It is a challenge for researchers who dream of making the city’s day into its night. It is a challenge for local authorities who need to redefine their management of space and time so as to avoid the development of conflicts, temporal segregation and the negative effects of a “pared-down time”. In the wake of fears and other security-related tensions, we need to occupy and populate the urban night and redefine the contours of a more accessible and hospitable city.
32It is possible to imagine a form of urbanism pertaining to the issue of the night and based on some major principles: the hospitality of public spaces and urban equipment in the face of different life conditions; information regarding lesser-known or understood territories; quality faced with a difficult environment; urban equality in tackling the chasm between center and periphery; sensitivity instead of the strict means/end rationality prominent during the day; variety in the face of potential trivialization; the unexpectedness of invention and events; interchangeability between light and shadow when faced with the risk of homogenization; security motivated by the city’s enhanced nightlife and the increase in human presence rather than security-based technology, and the appeal of the urban night as a reservoir of permanent invention.
33Taking an interest in urban nights means learning how to manage the contradictions and paradoxes (Barel, 1979) of a hyper-modern society (Lipovetsky, 2004): lighting the night without killing it; making the night accessible and preserving its original identity; developing the night without creating new conflicts of use; animating the night while respecting our body clocks; ensuring public safety without imposing a curfew; opening up the night while protecting the workers’ health; ensuring center-suburb continuity without imposing uniformity on the night; regulating the night while keeping some space for transgression; not regulating everything yet not abandoning the night to trade; developing the offer of service while preserving silence and darkness; reconciling the "right to the city" with the "right to the night" (Gwiazdzinki, 2014) and finally reclaiming the night while conserving some of its mystery.
34This approach to the night allows the "temporal architecture" of cities and other areas to be addressed more broadly (Bonfiglioli, 1990) as a separate expression of urban culture that involves both the layout of temporal configurations and the art of designing them, developing them and managing their production. A new urbanism, and the pleasure of encountering the other, nevertheless present challenges for all of us. Do we want to live the city as a 24-hour continuum? Do we want the night to be invaded by the values and rules of the diurnal city? We can aim at defining, in a wider sense, the methods and tools of a balanced space-time planning, both inside agglomerations and in the different scales of the urban tissue. Beyond the night, the inclusion of time in urban planning is a necessity. Conflicts traditionally concentrated in the use of space now concern the occupation of time and the administration of urban rhythms. At stake here is the need to protect, at the same time, the periods of time and the autonomy of these periods; of conceiving different sectors of the city according to its temporal profile; and of strategically guiding current tendencies in order to manage urban function intelligently. It is also a question of time.
35Beyond the urban night, the issue is whether or not to retain our traditional rhythms or to shift towards a continuous society, an à la carte 24-hour, 7-day city that represents comfort for some and hell for others. By burying these issues or asking the private domain to referee, we allow the economy alone to dictate its laws and run the risk of seeing a series of isolated decisions generate new conflicts and new inequalities. The night that gradually seeps into the agenda of the day is a blessed sphere for futurists, who can identify and try to interpret faint signals of our lives and cities of tomorrow. Thought can shift a time-saving approach to one of "quality of time" and therefore quality of life (Chausson, 2016) by developing an "ecology of time" that relates to the temporal environment, the temporal regime, socio-temporal frameworks and temporal culture.
36As a clarification of the city, urban nightlife teaches us a lot about the day and about our possible futures. Is a 24-hour city desirable or detestable? It is up to us to decide. The night is not a commodity, however; with the non-stop time of the economy and the system, launching a widespread debate on the continuous city does not mean accepting trends as a whole – quite the contrary. The night, as the city’s final frontier, is a territory of collective invention for the diurnal city. We save, reinvent and restore magic to the night.
37The jurisdiction of everyone, everywhere, the urban night commands discussion and cooperation between all stakeholders, far removed from institutional boundaries. The issue of the night necessitates a partnership, from the observation phase to experimentation and evaluation. With its links to time and the fragile dimensions of our existences, the night naturally returns humans to the heart of the debate and allows us to imagine a "chrono-politics" (Innerarity, 2008).
38An emerging field of research in social sciences, the night evokes issues of daily life and the urban day-to-day (Paquot, 2001), "that meaningful order that leads us to reflect on the whole of society, oscillating between the private and the global, the concrete and the abstract" (Matthey, 2005). It ensures that "urban sensations" are taken into account (Zardini, 2005) and that a sensitive, human approach to the city is taken, one of "ascendant innovation" or "innovation through use" (Von Hippel, 2005), far from the negative representations with which it has been saddled until now. In some urban areas, where stakeholders of the night are sufficiently numerous and organized, we may soon witness the emergence of innovation platforms, "nocturnal districts", "territorial ecosystems" or nocturnal "clusters" (Porter, 1988) allowing synergies to be formed between interested parties with an approach to sustainable development.
39Finally, the inclusion of the night on the agenda is also an opportunity to invite creatives and artists – who are very rarely associated with daytime urban production – to add to the attractiveness of the city and contribute to the production of new imagery, the "meaningful representations, images, symbols or myths through which a society or a subject is projected into space" (Bailly, 1989). The night really does have a lot to offer the day.