Recycling Sunlight for Modern Metropolises

All photos courtesy haberdashery.

As cities grow ever taller, parts of the ground level below become starved of light just like a rainforest floor. Helio Ray, haberdashery’s latest concept, aims to bring the sunshine back in metropolitan areas. The conceptual idea from the London-based design studio is engineered to redirect sunlight from above the skyline and bring it back down the side of buildings.


“Sunlight has a huge effect on our physiology and wellbeing,” explains Ben Rigby, co-founder and creative director. “It influences our circadian rhythms, provides vitamin D and illuminates our environment, bringing the true colour out of the surfaces, architecture and the urban grain. Our ambition was to create a focal point using sunlight in order to reinvigorate areas that had become disenfranchised from the life-affirming effects of the sunshine from way above.”


Mounted on the top of a tall building, Helio Ray is fuelled by light collected from a Heliostat, a mechanized mirrored surface that automatically tracks the sun and gathers it into a concentrated beam. It then abstracts this beam of light when reflecting off a second custom-designed reflector that sends the resulting shafts of light down the side of a building, creating “god ray” effects.


This slow variation in surface provides a slowly evolving pattern of reflected light, whilst perfectly controlling the extremities of the overall light effect so as to only fall on specified building surfaces. The effect comes and goes just like the real sun above, so is a true extension of the actual sun’s reach. It is visible from all surrounding buildings, providing a stunning, calming intervention in juxtaposition to the static, man-made urban grain of most cities.


The studio believes Helio Ray can bring a “sense of wonder and pride back into areas that had evolved into transient spaces lost in shadow, reinventing them as landmark destinations.” Such installations can also help hasten city planning by providing a quicker, less complicated path of incorporating infrastructure projects.


Alternatively, this concept further lends a hand toward haberdashery itself that explores the uses of light and how it can invoke a positive emotional response with the public.