Light not only affects our mood but also our wellbeing and productivity. Our energy levels rise together with the sun, and the warm light hues in the evening signal our brains to rest. But following these natural light cues can be difficult – not least in the Nordics, where summer days are long and bright and winters the complete opposite.
“I had lived over 20 years abroad. When I came back to Finland, the first winter was awful. People got tired and irritable, whereas in the summer they were full of energy,” recalls Sami Salomaa, founder of Light Cognitive. “I started to think about what could be a solution that would help people [feel better] but also be attractive from an architectural and design point of view.”
To find the answer, he turned to the sky. Instead of trying to simply recreate sunlight like many other companies, Light Cognitive developed a lighting system that brings the natural pattern of daylight hours indoors. Called Big Sky, the system mimics how the sky changes through the day from sunrise to sunset.
Making the sun rise indoors
Behind Big Sky is plenty of physics and even more research. Light Cognitive has developed proprietary physics models and uses light spectral modelling and thousands of different types of LEDs to create its daylight effect. Salomaa likens it to looking into the horizon through a window.
“Our product is a vast light field that simulates the light of the sky. It is not a display, there are no pixels, it’s a continuous light field,” he explains. “From a physics perspective, we have aimed to create light spectra similar to the horizon and colour transitions that are similar to those in nature. They happen in the right order and with the right intensity.”
The first Big Sky products were launched in 2016. Today the system is available as large wall and ceiling fixtures, custom-made installations and the company’s newest innovation: an artificial skylight. No matter the shape or size, all these products can be set to automatically follow a personalised daily sunrise-sunset cycle or changed to different light scenes using a mobile app.
Light Cognitive has already expanded beyond Finland. Big Sky installations can be found in London, Paris and Geneva workspaces, the hospitality industry, private homes and even in schools. But it is the Big Sky Skylight which is now driving the company’s most significant expansion plans.
“In London and other [major European] cities space is at a premium and high prices are driving extensions downwards. With the Skylight, you can turn a basement into a penthouse or bring window-like light to any windowless space,” Salomaa enthuses.
In addition, Light Cognitive’s eight-strong team is focused on product development, including bringing down the price of its lighting systems by developing proprietary electronic components. Currently, prices start at a few thousand euros.
“I like that our products can be used to make ambitious showcase installations, but I also want to make products that are easier to produce in high numbers and available for a larger group of people,” Salomaa concludes.