Bright Night

Graduate architecture student Sarah Moore brought attention to the need for off-the-grid lighting in a Kemper Museum installation. (Whitney Curtis)

For much of the developing world, access to electrical lighting is uncertain. Many rural farming villages exist “off the grid.” Major cities from Nairobi to Kolkata are subject to regular blackouts. The effect is that people aren’t as productive as they could be; they have to spend scarce money on candles; or sometimes they develop respiratory problems from the kerosene fumes.

Sarah Moore’s Kemper installation brings attention to the need for off-the-grid lighting.

To draw attention to this problem — and a solution — Sarah Moore, a master’s candidate in architecture, recently worked with Peter MacKeith, associate dean and associate professor of architecture in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, to design and construct an installation at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum that features a powerful and inexpensive solar-powered lamp, Little Sun. A shockingly bright LED, it is encased in tough, cheerful yellow plastic and shines up to five hours on a four-hour charge. “The idea is to transform centers of cultural production, such as museums and universities, into points of contact, where visitors come to understand and engage with the issues,” MacKeith says.

For her Calderesque mobile, Moore suspended Little Suns lamps and photos of owners with transparent filament and framed with laser-cut Plexiglas discs that catch the light and echo the lamp’s distinctive silhouette.

Next spring, students in “Sustainable ­Development and Conservation: Madagascar” — offered by University College in conjunction with the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and the Missouri Botanical Garden — will, among other projects, track the usage of Little Suns while exploring their larger economic and environmental potentials.

The shockingly bright LED shines up to five hours on a four-hour charge. (Whitney Curtis)
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