Making the northern lights shine in Japan
LED installation at EXPO 2005
The Northern Lights installation
Design: Peter Bysted, Philip Egebak
Client: Nordic Council of Ministers
Switching on some Nordic magic
The Northern lights or aurora borealis is a natural wonder that
draws people to the Nordic region from around the world, including
many Japanese - perhaps encouraged by their myth that happiness and
good fortune will shine upon a child conceived under its glow.
The Japanese fascination with the aurora borealis inspired Peter
Bysted to create a 'living picture' of the natural phenomenon in
the joint Nordic Pavilion at EXPO 2005 in Nagoya. Working with
lighting company Louis Poulsen, Peter Bysted and Philip Egebak
created a 12 by 5 meter installation that got Japanese visitors to
lay their head back and dream of the polar night's silence and
Artificial Northern light. Prototype at the
A curtain of light
The installation was a way to experiment and explore the
potential of LED lighting which, in 2005, was still an
up-and-coming technology. The installation's illusion was created
by acrylic rods that were illuminated from above by powerful LEDs.
Controlled by computer, the light was programmed to form the
colour-changing 'curtains' that people associate with the aurora
The natural aurora borealis.
The sound of light
For the installation, Kristian Vester (Goodiepal) was asked to
create sounds to accompany the light show. This increased the
impact of the experience and linked to an old idea that the aurora
borealis generates sounds along with spectacular light.
The native people of the region, the Sami, call the Northern
Lights the 'Gouvssahas', which means light that can be heard. And
some vistors, upon seeing the aurora borealis, claim to hear a
crackling sound. While this may be caused by an electromagnetic
pulse, others simply believe that the sound is caused by the viewer
- a sense perception caused by extremely quiet environments.