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photovoltaic exterior light



project lead:

christoph pauschitz

design team:

lukasz bertoli,

francesco costacurta,

augustina sarpong

join our seminar on "design als strategisches tool für marken- und unternehmens-entwicklung"

when it comes to the lighting of public spaces, the market wants effective and sustainable solutions. lamps in public spaces must blend harmoniously with different types of architecture. they have to fulfil a certain aesthetic standard. good reasons to ask GP to design the third generation of the photovoltaic exterior light. therefore we proudly present the HEI solar light™ model champ.

as you might already know, a product hits the sweet spot when technological possibilities, consumer desires and aesthetics meet. in that case it sells itself — well almost.

so in this project we were faced with one of the rare opportunities to combine a new technology with customer desires and aesthetics. and we succeeded. champ is a new photovoltaic exterior light which blends perfectly with different types of architectures.

no design or quiet design?

dieter rams, one of our famous colleagues, once said that »good design is as little design as possible«. well, we cannot completely agree with that postulation. but we think he meant that really well-designed products do not scream »i have been designed!«, but exist in perfect harmony with their surroundings. these products fit seamlessly into one's life. that is even more important for products in public spaces. they must meet the lowest common denominator of people.

the general idea

we wanted to take the chance offered by the technology. we created a solar light with an identity, with sensitivity. finally we found the perfect solution of exceptional beauty.

instead of using [what we call] nasa design — which is the clustering of individual components without questioning the structure and [almost] regardless of aesthetics — you can find a product with grace and perfection in shape where technology, function and form merge.

a horse-drawn carriage motor carriage by gottlieb daimler, circa 1886 henry ford's model t, circa 1915 mercedes benz ml, circa 2008 an ordinary street lamp first generation of photovoltaic lamps second generation of photovoltaic lamps: 'streetsun' third generation of photovoltaic lamps: 'champ'

dieter hornbachner, ceo, HEI »with the support of GP designpartners we could show that the modern solar technology and outstanding design are not contradictory but can enter into extraordinary symbiosis.

HEI solar light™ is a completely grid-independent solar lamp, which meets the new ecological demands of urban spaces. GP designpartners transformed this environmental progress into an aesthetic progress. solar technology in conjunction with the design of GP designpartners thus opens up entirely new perspectives for lighting and aesthetic design of outdoor spaces.«

di dr. dieter hornbachner



HEI solar technology allows a new approach. it is no longer necessary to graft new technologies onto products with well-known form factors. that could often be seen in the past when new technologies became available. remember the first cars after the invention of the engine. a similar evolution could be seen with the first generations of photovoltaic lamps. now, with HEI's new technology, we were able to create a really new product. a perfect housing.

our task was to create a new product. this time the technology was the material which had to be used. not a given product, which is usually the starting point. HEI asked for a lamp that lights a public space [that means it must emit a certain amount of light] and that uses the tubular solar panel. it should appeal to pedestrians as well as convince the decision-maker in the civic government. the tubular solar panel [the technology, the material to be used] could be used not only more or less horizontally, like standard solar panels, but vertically too.

the approach

we started to find a solution that was not seen before. something really new but still resembling a well-known object. we were searching for an iconic approach, a change in size.

what is the romantic aspect of a lamp, especially a street lamp? how do people remember light? what does the light remind people of? if we stroll along the river at night, strings of lights at the pier, ... yes, it should be an iconic solution.

another icon connected with light: the table light that dips oneself into a small island of brightness when sitting at the table at night, reading a book or writing a letter, concentrated. if we use this icon and resize it — maybe this is a possibility to jump onto the bandwagon to new ideas.

amsterdam at night a person reading a book in front of a desk lamp

the ideas

there were some really new ideas, i.e. the breathing light.

normally, when the lights are switched on it happens in one step. but what if the light dims on softly, the artificial light came to life slowly.

or wait, even better, imagine a row of lights. every light shines in a kind of idle mode. just enough to illuminate the space, just a little bit, so that it is not pitch dark. but when someone is approaching the light the glow increases, becomes stronger. the lamp would get an even more lifelike character. it would anticipate the prediction of architects that one day buildings could communicate with each other through their facades. if a pedestrian passes this string of lights, watched from the distance it would look like a wave of light moving along the street.

but that idea is not only about the effect, in fact it is about energy saving. low light if it is not needed, just to give an idea of what is next to the pedestrian. full light if the pedestrian is passing so that the path can be seen clearly. if two people are approaching each other, so would the two light waves. must be a nice image. even the most deserted space would become a little bit friendlier.

another idea was that the light would shine more strongly exactly when needed. a low level light just to light up the pavement, so i can see where to step. when i stamp on the floor, the lamp will shine more strongly. i would do this to read the address on my notepad for instance. again, this would save energy.

ok, i see. sometimes ideas are too early for mankind. but please write if you would like these functions in your park.

the solutions

of course there were lots of solutions:

  • skin — where we also used the solar panel for decorative function.
  • tree — a mechanical tree as a counterpart to the natural tree. the technical structure reflects nature and blends into the urban image. the technical structure looks almost like a tree in winter and thus feels familiar.
  • duck — the perfect balance. module and light form a unity, the mast hold this functional unit at the requested height.
  • diapason — the modules form two arms and between them there is the light, like the spark of the creator.

from the first concept phase: 'skin' from the first concept phase: 'tree' from the first concept phase: 'duck' from the first concept phase: 'diapason'

the idea!

champ — a cylinder barrel collects the light during the day and at night all the light wells forth from the base of the cylinder.

the number of cells can be changed without changing the character of the lamp. therefore champ can be adapted to the diverse environmental conditions of sites without changing its character. its slim and linear form factor makes it the perfect solution even for extreme weather conditions like severe wind or heavy snow. it works in sicily as well as in denmark.

promenade in south italy [one module] snow-covered street in denmark [three modules]

about ecology

lighting the street is expensive. not only when installing it, but also in operation. solar power is the technology of the future. not only is the energy delivered free by the sun, the installation of a street lamp is also comparatively easy: no costly cabling is needed, no earthworks on the street. modern LED lights promise low maintenance costs due to long lasting LEDs. in addition, neutral LED light does not attract insects, thus reducing the cleaning costs.

the use of a HEI solar light™ with its lifespan of 25 years means a carbon dioxide reduction of up two tons.

close-up of champ champ in front of the energybase building in vienna