It has always been a mystery how Egyptians lit their deeply buried tombs. Modern man is using plants to bring light underground.

Mirrors have always been the easiest method to bring reflected light underground, either by placing them along a vertical shaft to light the lower levels or by installing them horizontally, at differing angles in false ceilings, drawing light from facades to the depths of wide buildings.

The Japanese are known as the forerunners of this lighting technique, allowing the use of unoccupied underground car parking flooring in high rise buildings to turn into urban crop raising areas of rice and vegetables.



The Himawari Company started developing a more refined technique of capturing daylight in 1978 and 30 years later are able to convert it to U.V. free natural daylight.

All you need is:

• a collector which tracks the sun and collects sunlight
• optical fibre cable to transmit the sunlight and
• a light-fitting!

From a mono-lens automatic sunlight collection transmission system in the early days, Himawari collectors grew to the size of 198 lenses and can now bring natural daylight to north-facing areas, internal bathrooms in windowless rooms and basements.

Better still, as sunlight is obtained directly from the sun, one can feel the natural changes of the sun’s hues throughout the day and as it only contains a small amount of infrared radiation (thermal rays), it hardly interferes with room temperature or air conditioning systems.

Hotels in urban areas might consider installing their spas on underground floors knowing that they can be bathed by natural daylight suitable even for sunbathing and appropriate for the young and elderly alike.


Source: roof collectors from Himawari –

Plants have also been the subject of the latest urban landscaping project – an Arup-Raad partnership – which had it first public viewing last autumn in New York, and used the capture of daylight in a similar fashion.

A solar canopy – a silver dome which stands over greenery at ground level and draws light into it – linked by helium tubes to solar collector dishes, channel and distribute sunrays brought by fibre optic cabling underground.

The idea was to use a vaulted underground warehouse abandoned for sixty years on Lower East Side for Essex and Broome steet, still showing cobbled stones and criss-crossed by rail tracks, and turn it into the first underground urban park in the world – and judging from the projected tendency of urban settling versus rural living in the years to come, it may prove to be the first of many.

Raad Studio with Ove Arup

Source:  Raad Studio with Ove Arup – LowLine exhibit – September 2012 in New York.

By Silvia Pelham