A bright feat of solar-powered street lighting
SUNSEEKER from VANTOT is an innovative, sustainable alternative to traditional street lighting. The installation is made up of spinning top-shaped lamps that would look at home in an art gallery and are powered by sunlight. The fact that the row of lights features a modular design makes SUNSEEKER an extremely versatile product. As the name suggests, the lights seek out the sun. They're each equipped with a light sensor and constantly turn like sunflowers to find the sunniest spot. At night, the lamps follow park visitors to help them feel safe. SUNSEEKER lights adapt to their environment. They get dimmer when no one's around and brighter when people pass by. Moreover, they can also change color to add to the atmosphere in the park.
VANTOT is made up of Esther Jongsma and Sam van Gurp. The design duo first made a name for themselves by developing innovative interior lighting with cutting-edge LED technologies. Since then, the light specialists have also become very experienced in developing inventive lighting for the public space. From design to reality: Sam and Esther aren't just talented designers — they also boast large amounts of entrepreneurial know-how and project management skills.
Check out VANTOT.com to find out more.
About the brief
Eindhoven Municipality is hard at work developing a new park: Victoriapark. The goal is to create a leafy oasis in the city. And if that wasn't enough, this new green space will also be used as a testing ground for innovative, sustainable solutions. In short, it's destined to be a place that reflects the city's sustainable ambitions.
The initial brief was to develop a design proposal for an innovative way to use flexible solar cells in Victoriapark. To help generate a great concept, the municipality worked with What if Lab, a program from the Dutch Design Foundation that matches clients with designers and provides supervision as they work together on innovative concepts for tough design challenges. Designers who take part in a What if Lab receive a budget to research and come up with a design proposal.
Eindhoven Municipality launched What if Lab in collaboration with Solliance, a research organization dedicated to the development and use of solar technology, including finding new applications for thin-film solar cells. These solar cells are thin and flexible, allowing them to be used in various ways.
VANTOT took part in What if Lab and came up with a proposal. After their design proposal was selected as the best, they decided to start developing SUNSEEKER further. This meant they took the initiative to start shaping the future of the project themselves after the lab came to an end.
About the process
VANTOT saw great potential in using flexible solar cells and decided to examine the brief from a broader perspective. They started looking at what was needed in the local area to gather some inspiration. This research included talking to people who lived nearby. They carried out these talks and other investigations with the help of experience architect Renee Scheepers, who conducted research for the municipality on what local residents wanted from the park. The thing that stood out most from the talks was that people needed a feeling of safety and a greater sense of atmosphere in the park. Esther and Sam also zoomed out further to look at the subject on a citywide level. They saw the project as a fantastic opportunity to revolutionize the world of street lighting. Not just for use in Victoriapark, but also in other parts of Eindhoven and perhaps even farther afield.
Victoriapark links downtown Eindhoven with the city's Strijp district. The municipality wants to let the stream called the Gender run above ground once again. The Steentjeskerk and such other local architectural landmarks as the Witte Dame, the Lichttoren, the Regentenkwartier, and the old Philips office will soon all sit alongside this little stream. That made Esther and Sam hit on the idea of making a trail of lighting powered by the sun. They developed this idea further in collaboration with the research center at Eindhoven's High Tech Campus.
‘‘How cool is it that you can use sunlight to make new light?’’Esther Jongsma | VANTOT
After their design proposal was selected as the best concept by the municipality and Solliance during What if Lab, VANTOT decided to develop the idea further. This concept then became a concrete proposal for SUNSEEKER in Victoriapark. The municipality was enthusiastic about the idea and became a project partner. It provided a budget to investigate SUNSEEKER's potential. Moreover, it supported VANTOT in applying for funding from the local province to finance the project further.
VANTOT suggested they start by creating a proof of concept in Victoriapark. This would let them show that SUNSEEKER works. The fact that Victoriapark is a sustainable testing ground for the municipality gave them far more flexibility than they would've had with regular street lighting. This first phase was also extremely valuable because it allowed the municipality and VANTOT to get to know each other better and shape their working relationship.
VANTOT collaborated with digital expert Roel Deden to develop a VR design tool to help them work out their design in detail. This tool lets them decide on the dimensions and details of their product on a grand scale and shows the municipality and other collaborative partners how SUNSEEKER would look, both at night and during the day.
The first lamps were installed in Victoriapark during Dutch Design Week 2020. VANTOT thought it was important to get local residents involved in the project. A letter to residents and signs in the park invited them to give their opinion on the lights. The reactions to the lighting were overwhelmingly positive. What's more, the lamps work just as expected, leading VANTOT to hope that SUNSEEKER will soon be seen in more locations across the city.
The lights have been removed temporarily due to the redevelopment of Victoriapark. But they'll be back as soon as the redevelopment work is complete. Read more about it by visiting OpenEindhoven.com.
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