Aimed at enabling outdoor gatherings, the Studio Roosegaarde project cites scientific research into the sanitising effects of far-UVC light
Words by Francesca Perry
In the Dutch city of Rotterdam, Studio Roosegaarde has launched Urban Sun, a light installation inspired by the sun which aims to ‘clean’ public spaces of the coronavirus to create safer outdoor social gatherings.
The project draws on scientific research which shows that specific ultraviolet light (far-UVC) with the wavelength of 222 nanometers can reduce the presence of viruses, including various strains of coronavirus and influenza, by up to 99.9%.
Taking the form of a suspended light source over a black sphere, Urban Sun casts a large circle of far-UVC light on the ground, with an effect visually mimicking a solar eclipse. At night, it defines a visible area of public space that is purportedly safe from viruses.
Daan Roosegaarde, artist and founder of ‘social design lab’ Studio Roosegaarde, worked with an international team of designers and scientists to discover how 222nm light can be harnessed to sanitise viruses safely and enhance wellbeing in public settings.
Studio Roosegaarde has long been researching the power of light; the self-funded Urban Sun project in fact began in 2019, but the pandemic made it more urgent. Urban Sun’s far-UVC light source is measured and calibrated by the Dutch National Metrology Institute VSL, and the project meets the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) safety standards.
Treading the line between design installation and scientific intervention, Urban Sun aims to tackle the negative impact of social isolation caused by Covid-19 lockdowns. ‘Suddenly our world is filled with plastic barriers and distance stickers, our family reduced to pixels on a computer screen,’ says Roosegaarde. ‘Let’s be the architects of our new normal and create better places to meet.’
Currently installed in Rotterdam, Roosegaarde hopes that Urban Sun will find homes around the world as governments and partners come forward to collaborate on new applications.
Photography courtesy of Daan Roosegaarde
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