Placemaking projects and public art installations often pop up in the warm seasons, when the weather is nice, and citizens are more inclined to spend time outside and engage with public spaces. As a response to that, and in order to promote the use of public space even in cold and dark seasons, the Finnish-Swiss designer duo created an interactive installation in the form of a swing, that invites passers-by to take their part in bringing some extra light to the street.
In Helsinki, winters are very long and during the day, little light reaches the city. Päivi Raivio and Daniel Baumann wanted to use this climate characteristic and turn it into a positive challenge for placemaking, instead of an obstacle. The two designer-artists are involved in winterplacemaking which has recently become popular, especially in the Nordic countries. Winterplacemaking aims to break the stereotype that “bad weather causes boring public places”.
The Light Swing, set up on the public yard of the Helsinki City Museum, is a prototype, part of the bigger Winter in HEL concept developed by the duo. This initiative to enliven Helsinki’s public sphere in winter and show that it is not as bad as it may seem. The swing creates energy using dynamo with the help of a person swinging on it. The energy lights up the lamps on the top of the swing brightening up the area around it. “Light is one of the main features which “visually enhances public space during darkness, but it usually requires energy and access to a source of electricity. That’s not the case with the Light Swing, which combines active participation, self-powering, play and light,” the duo explains.
The Winter in HEL project is one amongst many examples of placemaking which encourages public participation in shared urban areas. Similarly to initiatives such as Benchmark — a public bench measuring its use and need for it within a city — the Light Swing responds to the needs of citizens and what they think is lacking in public space. In the case of this project, its functioning even depends on the participants: they need to engage with it to brighten up the winter streets of Helsinki.
Photos courtesy of Hanna Råst and Päivi Raivio