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Dr Casper Laing Ebbensgaard

Casper

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow

Email: c.l.ebbensgaard@qmul.ac.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)7597 295837

Profile

Twitter: @casperlaing

I am a cultural geographer who is broadly interested in the role of urban design and planning practices in everyday life of residents in cities, and specifically in London, past and present. Throughout my research I have explored how everyday practices, routines and sensory experiences are conditioned by the ways the built environment is given shape through a variety of urban design and planning practices, but specifically through lighting design and landscaping.

My research interests are driven by two key questions:

  • What is the role of different technologies – but artificial lighting in particular – in conditioning the ways that people see, feel and do things in the city?
  • How can knowledge about how people respond to and negotiate technological change in cities be used to improve the ways cities are designed and planned in the future?

In relation to the first question, I am curious to explore how people feel about changes in their everyday built environment, and how they respond to and negotiate changes in technologies, such as the upgrade of street lighting, the construction of new residential buildings, and/or the landscaping of open spaces. For my doctoral research I investigate how older residents in the East London Borough of Newham, respond to changes in street lighting, as outmoded technologies are replaced with LEDs throughout the borough. And for my current Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship funded research project, Luminous Verticality: The changing geographies of East London at night, I will explore in more depth the role that new lighting technologies play in designing high-rise residential buildings in East London for the night, and how these buildings are experience by its residents and neighbours.

In response to the second question driving my research interests, these two projects open up a dialogue with urban planners and designers about the urban processes of change that are created through specific housing policies, regeneration and design strategies and implementation of new technologies. Leading from both projects, I develop a set of suggestions and recommendations for professionals working in the field of lighting design and light planning for improving the way the city is illuminated and orchestrated after hours of darkness.

The methodological approach that I deploy in uncovering how people feel about their environments and the changes that are imposed through design, draws on a catalogue of qualitative research methods, accrued over years of experiments with ethnographic, visual and interview based methods. I am particularly interested in how photography can enhance our understanding of spaces by visualising aspects of everyday life that often goes unnoticed and making palpable some of that affective excess that imbues our urban lives. Moreover, I am interested in using moving images and film as part of an ethical participatory approach to co-creating research with local residents.

Keywords:

Urban design and planning; artificial lighting; public space; home and domesticity; experience; the senses.

 

Teaching

  • GEG7123 Cities, Space Power
  • GEG5131 Contemporary London
  • GEG4106 Reinventing Britain

Research

Research Interests:

Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, reference ECF-2017-389 (Jan. 2018 – Dec. 2020)

Luminous Verticality: The changing geographies of East London at night: 263 high-rise buildings are planned for construction across London, and 47% will be located in London’s East End. This project examines these newly designed residential high-rises within their wider context at night, by questioning to what extent the lived experience of the night is taken into account when designing them. The research questions the role of lighting design to how residents living in and nearby these new high-rises feel at home, or not at home at night. The research draws on ethnographic methods and will involve collaboration with a photographer and The Geffrey Museum of the Home.

Post-Doctoral Research Assistant, QMUL (Oct. 2016 – Dec. 2017)

Home-City-Street: Based at the Centre for Studies of Home, a partnership between QMUL and the Geffrye Museum, ‘Home-City-Street’ is a research project that explores the lived experience of domestic dwelling in relation to the wider neighbourhood and city. The project investigates homes and their residents over time, spanning across a range of migration trajectories, forms of dwelling and tenures, and does so through hosting a number of artist led workshops and events, collaboration with the Geffrye Museum and through the production of a number of home city biographies. The home-city biographies record the everyday experiences of living in a part of the city characterised by great diversity and rapid change, in oral history, photographs and in four short films. The home-city biographies shape a catalogue of very varied, subjective and heartfelt memories and experiences that together shape a biography of the Kingsland Road.

PhD: QMUL studentship and Roskilde University (Oct. 2013 – Dec. 2016)

Rethinking Urban Lighting: Geographies of Urban Lighting in Everyday Life: During my thesis research I explored how older residents living in the East London Borough of Newham experienced changes in street lighting, in the public realm and in their domestic settings. By focussing on the sensory experiences of light and darkness in mundane urban settings – the street, the corner shop, the bus stop, alleyways, underpasses, parks and the domestic setting – I have brought a sensitivity to an aspect of everyday life that is often overlooked in urban studies, lighting and the night time and in cultural geography more broadly. Furthermore, the engagement with older residents has brought attention to a somewhat overlooked and marginalised group, in research on lighting as well as urban policy, providing an opportunity to initiate a dialogue with local government to challenge lighting policies, plans and designs.

Publications

Peer reviewed journal articles

  • ‘I just like the sound of falling water, it’s calming’: Engineering sensory experiences through landscape design. Cultural Geographies, (2017) vol. 24(3), pp. 441-455.
  • Illuminights: A sensory study of illuminated urban environments in Copenhagen. Space and Culture, (2015) vol. 18(2), pp. 112-131.

Book Reviews:

  • Urban Lighting, Light Pollution and Society. (Eds. Meier, J., Hasenöhrl, U., Krause, K., and Pottharst, M.), Routledge. European Planning Studies, 2015, Vol. 23(7), pp. 1437-1440.
  • Cities of Light – Two Centuries of Urban Illumination. (Eds. Isenstadt, S., Maile Petty, M., Neumann, D.). Routledge. European Planning Studies, 2015 Vol. 23(8), pp. 1671-1674.

Public Engagement

Running through my research is a dedication to engaging with and making the research meaningful, not just for the people directly involved but for the general public more widely.

During my Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship funded project, Luminous Verticality, I will collaborate with a photographer and local residents in providing visual and oral material that document lived experiences to wider audiences across East London. The material will be published online, but alos feature at a range of public engagement events hosted at QMUL and the Geffrye Museum, and an exhibition in 2020/2021 at the Geffrye Museum.

During the ‘Home-City-Street’ project I engaged actively in engaging a broad and very diverse range of local organisations and residents from diverse neighbourhoods in a range of public engagement events at the Geffrye Museum. From these events led collaboration with residents in the production of four short films and 15 home-city biographies, using visual and oral material, which is published online and will be used as the basis for further public events that raise awareness to the local residents’’ experience of coping with urban change.

Magazine article:

‘Park Lights’. Lighting Magazine. 2015, June issue, pp. 67-72, London.

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