The night-time hours are precious. They are discretionary, after-work, free time for most of us. But for those who work the ‘third shift’ – transit and taxi drivers, cleaners, technology coders, healthcare workers – it is critical to feel
safe while traversing the city on the way to the long
night of employment.
A disjuncture between work and leisure arose early
during the Industrial Revolution. As the working
day became codified and confined to daylight hours;
evenings were established as a pressure relief valve,
a nocturnal alternate to the rational day. Primarily for
men, this time availed a pleasurable licence to bar hop.
Simultaneously, community authorities proclaimed
dark a moral danger to women. For the first time, after-hours educational and religious instruction centres
such as those of the American lyceum movement
and the UK and Australia’s Mechanics Institutes
proliferated to ‘save’ working women and men.
Since the publication of Marion Roberts’s In Planning
the Night-time City in 2009, a fever of night-time
economy awareness has installed itself in metropolitan
and city government, predominantly in Australia,
Europe and Britain, and within the planning/design
professions. But as Roberts points out, ‘it was not
a European theorist who inspired 24-hour city policies,
but a North American’. Jane Jacobs, back in 1961
with her classic work, The Death and Life of Great
American Cities, advocated the ‘organised complexity’
of mixed-use neighbourhoods.
A fresh recognition of night has arisen through the real
estate phrase, 24/7. In 2003, with enthusiasm, I asked
urban designer Riccardo Marini what he thought of
the concept. He responded that he did not think that,
at that time, his constituency in Glasgow would view
24 hours of activity as a good thing, but rather, he
posited, what about 18/7?
Two contemporary UK writers in particular have
influenced today’s awareness of the nocturnal hours:
Matthew Beaumont and Nick Dunn. Beaumont’s
Nightwalking, a Nocturnal History of London, a
literary, after-dark journey, and Dunn’s manifesto,
Dark Matters, each traverse the thoughtful and ▼