There is the sun

Ief Spincemaille / Werktank
In the 1960s, architect Renaat Braem designed the Sint-Maartensdal housing complex in Leuven.

He had envisaged a social living community comprising identical housing blocks. Braem opted for a symmetrical design. The three blocks stand opposite each other in a triangle; as such, block 1B is situated virtually due north and thus in shadow.

There is the Sun seeks to pay homage to Renaat Braem’s idealism while at the same time helping local residents. Ief Spincemaille has installed three moveable mirrors on the lawn outside block 1B which are able to reflect sunlight in a single direction throughout the day.

Via a simple website, residents can enter their house number and the time at which they would like sunlight to stream into their flat. The Web application sends this information through to the mirrors, which can then reflect sunlight to a given flat at the desired time.

There is the sun provides a critique of the difficult relationship between the social/environmental and artistic/aesthetic aspects of housing complexes in particular. How, as a creator, can you improve local communities and at the same time remain true to your independence as a designer?

Spincemaille has sought to use technology to resolve the aesthetic/environmental conflict between beauty and social ideals: giving residents direct sunlight while retaining the site’s original layout.

There is the sun is about more than just sunlight, and the designer has also forged a lasting relationship with the neighbourhood. Spincemaille visited people in their homes to tell them about the project and help put together a timetable. He also set up a local communication system which is being used by those living in the neighbourhood.