Making light work of darkness

The medieval old town of the Estonian capital, Tallinn, will be brightened up for four long winter nights this week by 10 000 lights, hoisted above the city on 500 helium-filled weather balloons.

“The aim of this unprecedented light installation is to bring some joy to the people amidst the dark winter period we have here in northern Europe,” said architect Veronika Valk, one of the organisers of the event.

The semi-permanent art installation, called the Light Dome, will illuminate the city every night for three hours from Thursday to Sunday.

The organisers of the project, conceived at an Estonian designers’ workshop for young architects, hope it will not only make aesthetic improvements to Tallinn in the bleak mid-winter, but also have a positive impact on health, Valk said.

“Almost half the population in Estonia suffer from the so-called SAD [seasonally adjusted disorder] syndrome. We hope the powerful illuminated cloud over the old town will put a smile back on people’s faces,” she said.

In February, night falls at about 4.30pm in Estonia, the northernmost of the Baltic countries, and lasts about 16 hours, with the sun not rising again until about 8.30am.

Each Light Dome balloon will be adorned with 20 powerful lights and anchored to the ground by a sandbag.

“We will use 500 white meteorological balloons, each 2m wide, with ‘smoke’ diffused around them to create a light-reflective fog. This concept will create a reflective medium above the city when lit from underneath to resemble an ethereal, self-illuminated cloud,” the organisers explained.

The smoky effect will be created by special candles used in firework displays, set on nearby roofs.

“These candles are also used in the film industry to make fog.
They are used to intensify firework effects, but do not produce fireworks themselves, but rather an ephemeral, mysterious atmosphere,” Valk explained.

The Light Dome is funded by Tallinn city council and the Dutch embassy. It is organised by a group of Estonian architects together with the Arup Lighting group and Dutch architect Winy Maas.

According to the organisers, the Light Dome is the precursor to similar installations elsewhere in Europe, including London in 2006.—Sapa-AFP

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