Little Sun redux with Velux at MIT

Artist Olafur Eliasson, the 2014 McDermott Award Winner, has found MIT an eminently suitable place for collaboration on his Little Sun project.

Described as “a work of art that works in life,” Little Sun is a high-quality, portable, solar powered LED lamp developed by Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen, to provide light to people in off-grid areas. It is designed to bring clean, reliable, affordable light to the 1.6 billion people worldwide without access to electricity, in order to extend their working, cooking, studying and socializing into the night without the need for unsafe, fuel-based lighting.

On December 11, D-Lab and the Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) sponsored “Disruptive Development,” a session to introduce students to the Little Sun Natural Light Design Competition, a partnership with Danish window-manufacturer Velux.  Little Sun CEO & Managing Director Felix Hallwachs spoke about the project and introduced Carina Skovmoeller, the Project Manager on the competition from Velux, who explained the company’s involvement with the competition in celebration of their 75th corporate anniversary.

The design competition will yield a special edition Little Sun lamp, which will be produced (29,000 units) and distributed to a developing country. Design schools from across the globe are participating. The Natural Light competition will not only get light to the communities that need it the most, but will also raise awareness about sustainable energy and encourage innovation. Natural Light gives visionary students the opportunity to affect people’s lives and the environment substantially.

Students from the MIT D-Lab were ideal candidates to hear Hallwachs and Skovmoeller’s pitch. D-Lab, founded in 2002 by Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, Amy Smith, challenges and inspires talented students to use their math, science, engineering, social science and business skills to tackle global poverty issues. Smith, who has been working in a refugee camp in Uganda teaching people manufacturing skills, will use components from Little Sun for this vital work.

According to Hallwachs, the design of Little Sun is aspirational. Little Sun lamps are not only utilitarian, they are meant “to inspire children to feel powerful by enabling them to hold energy in their hands.”

Little Sun installation in the windows of the MIT Museum, 2012. Credit: L. Barry Hetherington.
Little Sun installation in the windows of the MIT Museum, 2012. Credit: L. Barry Hetherington.

The evaluation criteria for the Natural Light design competition include global relevance, user centricity, sustainability, market potential, price and weight. Jurors are Olafur Eliasson (Artist and Little Sun Founder), Patricia Urquiola (Designer), Ije Nwokorie (CEO, Wolff Olins), Koyo Kouoh (Founding Artistic Director, RAW Gallery, and Curator), Melody Joachim (Chairperson of the Board and Sales Agent, Alight Little Sun Zimbabwe), Michael Rasmussen (Marketing Director, Velux A/S) and Frederick Ottesen (Engineer and Little Sun Founder).

Submissions are due by March 15, 2015. Learn more about Natural Light.

Learn more about Little Sun and 2014 McDermott Award winning artist Olafur Eliasson.

This program was sponsored by Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST), D-Lab, Little Sun, Velux, International Development Innovation Network and U.S. Global Development Lab.


Posted on December 17, 2014 by Sharon Lacey