BERLIN â€" The sight of a swing causes not only children, but also many adults, to impulsively sit down, push off with their feet and swing back and forth for as long as possible.
This very impulse was a stroke of luck for Oliver-Selim Boualam and Lukas Marstaller, when the management of the Cologne Furniture Trade Fair prohibited visitors from using their black steel swing exhibit, citing insurance reasons. This allowed the Karlsruhe-based designers to focus on explaining their concept to trade fair attendees, rather than on acting like primary school teachers looking after students in the school yard during recess.
Swings are of interest to designers not only because they are toys, but also because they provide seating without legs. In addition, they are not rooted to the spot, but create a certain dynamic by simply floating in space. Polish designer Iwona Kosicka developed a reinvention of what is probably the worldâ€™s most famous hanging seat â€" Eero Aarniosâ€™ 1960s "Bubble Chair,â€ a Perspex hemisphere suspended by a chain from the ceiling â€" with her own version, called "Swing."
â€œSwingâ€ is, in principle, just a wooden hoop that has been broadened in its designated seating area. To the designer, however, it symbolizes a combination "of childlike enthusiasm and elegance." Two of these chairs are to be found at the Red Bull offices in Stockholm.
Swinging makes you happy because it creates a state that oscillates between weightlessness and gravity. Its movement is a gentle up and down and forwards and backwards, while the action of swinging itself alternates between soft rocking and reckless swaying.
Eero Aarniosâ€™ iconic "Bubble Chair" â€" Photo: Hans B./GFDL
Karin Schmidt-Ruhland, professor of Gaming and Educational Design at the Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design Halle, claims to understand why swinging is important for both children and adults.
"It is fun, and it gives your body awareness and sensory and special orientation a work out. Your body is moving, as is the world around you. It creates self-confidence and courage,â€ she says.
She also notes that a swingâ€™s design is very simple, as "it is actually made up of just a plank and rope. Two holes are drilled into either end of the plank to stabilize the swing. Thatâ€™s all there is to it.â€
The courage to go higher and higher and, for the more advanced swing aficionado, to let go at the height of the arc and be catapulted into nothingness. By now, it is well-known that swinging not only makes children happy, but also cultivates their intelligence, seeing as the swinging motion stimulates their sense of balance and thereby supports their motor skills development, which is intrinsically linked to cognitive development.
In Cologne, trade fair visitors curiously circle the object titled "As High As Best,â€ probably asking themselves how comfortable the u-shaped steel tube, with its seat and handle combo, really is. After all, they arenâ€™t allowed to test it.
"It is much more comfortable than you would think at first glance," says Boualam, who, together with his partner Marstaller, is known under the pseudonym of "Butternutten AG" (Butter Whores Inc.) and is something between an artist and a designer.
"As High As Best" â€" Photo: kkaarrllss
"As High As Best" is part of a project that saw a kiosk, situated at the last stop of the Karlsruhe S-Bahn train line No. 5, redeveloped by the designers, who created this piece of furniture specifically for the space. They fastened 16 hanging chairs to the ceiling around the octagonal room.
"We had envisaged a stay of 15 minutes per person because the space is always in flux, but people actually spent up to an hour on the swings," Boualam says.
The swing played with peopleâ€™s tendency to use improvised seating in public spaces, proving them with a concrete and dynamic shape.
Itâ€™s nice to think that in the future, all S-Bahn, U-Bahn and bus stops could be fitted with swings. Boualam and Marstallerâ€™s steel tube design was developed to allow for uncomplicated large scale production. Unfortunately, however, the current limited edition counts just 20 pieces, and the designers are still looking for a manufacturer.
With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.
CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.
Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.
It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.
Abundant sunshine, low temperatures
The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.
Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.
It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.
Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park
Chinese want to expand
The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.
The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.
The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.
The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.
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