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The sun shines through a mirror in Viganella

Viganella is a tiny village in Piedmont with just 206 inhabitants. I want to share with you the curious yet unfortunate tale that led to the installation, in 2006, of an enormous mirror atop a mountain to reflect sunlight.

You know those charming mountain villages so popular during the holidays, perfect for escaping monotony and experiencing the cold season up close? Well, it is the king of these villages, and today I’ll tell you why.

The Need for a Mirror to Illuminate the Village

Viganella is situated in a far-from-ideal location, nestled in the narrowest part of the Antrona Valley. This unfortunate positioning prevents sunlight from reaching the village during the winter.

Citizens, at least until 2006, were deprived of a single ray of sunlight from November 11th to February 2nd. This condition was suboptimal and problematic from various perspectives, including the emotional and psychological well-being of the citizens and the overall economic sustainability of the village.

Viganella was the first town to artificially alter climatic conditions, so to speak. Was it a daring or brilliant move?

The mirror illuminates the village 83 days a year | Credit

The then-mayor, Mr. Pier Franco Midali, had a clear vision. He wanted to restore the 83 days of sunshine taken away by the dismal location of their village.

In 1999, in a friendly conversation, the mayor revealed his extravagant and primal idea to his friend and architect, Giacomo Bonzani. “As an architect, create a project to bring sunlight to Viganella, and I, as an administrator, will make it happen at any cost,” Midali said.

The Mayor’s Project

Implementing a project of such magnitude was no easy feat. However, in 2005, after six years, the completed project was submitted to a provincial competition, although it did not win.

However, something shifted on that occasion. The mountain village became internationally renowned, attracting journalistic and television crews from CNN and the BBC. From the USA to Japan, Viganella was on everyone’s lips.

A quick overview of the project

In this heightened atmosphere of global interest, the village in the middle of nowhere quickly garnered support from various organizations and foundations to fund the project, totaling 99,000 euros.

Forty square meters—8 meters in width and 5 meters in length—these were the dimensions needed to gift the village with a bright winter. The artificial sun was lit on December 17, 2006, accompanied by a grand celebration with guests from around the world.

Advancing with a Blend of Nature and Technology

The mirror, positioned at an altitude of 1100 meters and 997 meters from the center of Viganella, meticulously adheres to the laws of physics to maximize efficiency. Engineer Emilio Barocco also devised a dynamic system allowing daily rotation.

How does this magical mirror work?
Every morning, it positions itself to the east, executing the exact opposite movement of the Earth as it revolves around the sun. This ensures a fixed light on the village square.

This pioneering and highly engineered project follows the movements of the sun in harmony with the winter solstice to guarantee optimal reflection of its rays for the citizens.

Viganella’s mirror during the installation | Credit

In practice, during the days leading up to the winter solstice, as the sun progressively descends, the mirror rises to capture the rays. Conversely, in the days following the winter solstice, as the sun gradually ascends on the horizon, the mirror lowers to continue projecting sunlight onto Viganella.

As for the evening, it maintains a resting position.

Another strength of the project and the achievement of the team in charge was its complete respect for the environment. The mirror brought light where nature had not succeeded before, without impacting the green surrounding territory.

After 17 years, the project continues successfully, consistently illuminating the village of Viganella.

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