Sometime in a 1995 episode of the “The Simpsons,” Mr. Burns builds a giant disk to block the sun over Springfield, forcing all the residents to buy a continuous stream of electricity from his power plant. It was one of Mr. Burns’ larger, more diabolical plots, and had Maggie not shot him, who knows what would have become of our favorite fake town? Who could live in a town that never sees a breath of sunlight?
Viganella, a remote village of German Buddhists in northern Italy, has long experienced such a plight. Located deep in a valley, the little community resides at such a point that from mid-November to early February each year, the residents never see the sun’s direct glow. As anyone who has lived in a low apartment on a street with high buildings can tell you, living in a sunless world can be a miserable existence. And Lightphoria simply doesn’t make a light therapy box big enough to treat an entire village with full-spectrum light beams.
But Viganella came up with a crafty fix: in 2006, the residents joined together and built their own sun. Architect and sundial designer Giacomo Bonzani had the idea to install a large mirror on a mountain side 870 meters above the town and tilt it at such an angle that the sun would hit and reflect down into the town’s square. At 40 square meters in size, 8 meters wide by 5 meters high, the mirror is controlled by computer software which tilts and moves the panels to keep the sun’s attention directed squarely on the little village.
Bonzani, kind of an anti-Mr. Burns, used his knowledge of physics to rescue an entire town from Seasonal Affective Disorder, enlightening the Buddhists in a kind of beautifully direct fashion. View images of the project below, and also see the preview for “The Mirror,” a documentary about the town’s illumination.