Little Sun: A "miniature sun" shining through the night
It's automatic: the sun sets, and we turn on the lights. Such a frequent, simple and natural gesture, that we are hardly aware of the value of what that switch operates: electric light. It is, though, not taken for granted either by the 1.3 billion people worldwide who have no access to the electrical grid, or by the further billion whose electrical grids are unreliable. For these people, kerosene lamps represent the only alternative to electricity, but they may be doomed to a short life, thanks to the contribution of designers.
Unnumbered drawbacks can be traced back to this kind of lighting: negative health effects connected to daily exposure to kerosene fumes, great risk of fires and burns and high level of carbon dioxide emissions. A solution has lately been put forward by many engineers and environmental consultants, who plan to rely on a free kind of lighting, that is sunlight. This suggestion has already borne fruit, which have grown on the same branch as the UN initiative aimed at ensuring universal access to modern energy services by 2030.
Useful art: Little Sun's social business
There is a chance of finding a common ground between environmental awareness and design. This common ground could lead to the creation of both useful, attractive and affordable objects: as the artist Olafur Eliasson and the engineer Frederik Ottesen have already shown. The result of their collaboration is Little Sun, a "miniature sun" which will bring light into the nights of off-the-grid communities. The solar panel on the back of this small sun-shaped lamp collects the necessary energy for turning the LED bulb on: 5 hours of sunlight provide light for a whole night, and the battery can count on a 3-years lifespan. It is therefore a both energy-saving and functional lamp, since it is hand-sized and thus portable, can be easily hung on a wall, used as a table lamp or as a bike light.
The secret of the success of lamps like this even in on-grid areas hides, indeed, in their versatility and winning design: their unique look and the environmental sensitivity they show, indeed, appeal to a public who is increasingly aware of the matters related to environmental protection.
Both its launch in 2012 at Tate Modern, London, and its presentation at last year's Architecture Biennale in Venice have underlined Little Sun's goals, i.e. improving learning conditions, creating chances for people to meet and producing new income-generation opportunities for businesses by enabling longer working hours. All in all, as the Danish-Icelandic artist, known for installations such as the Weather Project and for the façade of the Harpa, the Concert Hall and Conference Centre in Reykjavik, light is for everyone.