Time is running out for us to handle the environmental disarray we have created or let fester too long without action. Dutch Artist, innovator and creative thinker, Daan Roosegaarde, is convinced there is a way out – we simply need to design it.
From the world’s first largest outdoor air purifier which turns smog into jewellery to roads that charge throughout the day and glow at night to visualising and upcycling space waste and now the world’s first Urban Sun which cleans up the coronavirus germ from public spaces, Roosegaarde, with his team of designers and engineers at his social design lab Studio Roosegaarde in the Netherlands, connects people and technology in artworks that improve daily life in urban environments, sparks imagination and fights the climate crisis.
Founded in 2007, the social design lab creates dreamscapes for the liveability of our future landscapes, with clean air, water, energy, and space being its core values and light the language. Here, new innovations are transformed from concepts into artistic installations. The studio has a vast experience in public space commissions in cities such as Rotterdam, Beijing, Paris, Eindhoven and Stockholm. The Studio also initiates its own projects to research new social innovations in collaboration with universities or partnerships with NASA and BMW and has a pop-up studio in Shanghai.
“People won’t change because of facts or numbers. But if we can trigger the imagination of a new world, that’s the way to activate people. I don’t believe in utopia, but in protopia; step by step upgrading the world around us. Art is our activator,” says Roosegaarde in his recently published book.
Roosegaarde’s mantra ‘Schoonheid’ is a Dutch word with two meanings: ‘beauty’, that comes from creativity; and ‘clean’, that comes from clean air and clean energy. For Roosegaarde, this should be a fundamental condition in daily life.
“True beauty is not a Louis Vuitton bag or a Ferrari, but clean air and clean energy,” says Roosegaarde.
From an early age, Roosegaarde has been driven by nature’s artwork such as luminous fireflies or jellyfish. His fascination for nature and technology is reflected in his iconic works such as Smog Free Project (the largest outdoor air purifier which turns smog into jewellery), Van Gogh Path (bicycle path which glows at night), Space Waste Lab to visualise and capture space waste and Smart Highway (roads that charge throughout the day and glow at night)
ROOSEGAARDE’S INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED WORKS
Smog free project – World’s first smog vacuum cleaner which creates clean air parks
Smog Free Project is a campaign for clean air led by Roosegaarde to reduce air pollution and provide an inspirational experience of a clean future, including a series of urban innovations. With the Smog Free Tower, Roosegaarde and his team of experts have created the world’s first smog vacuum cleaner. The 7-meter tall Smog Free Tower uses patented positive ionisation technology to produce smog free air in public spaces, allowing people to breathe and experience clean air for free. It is equipped with environment-friendly technology, cleans 30,000 cubic metres per hour and uses a small amount of green electricity. The Smog Free Tower provides a local solution for clean air such as in parks.
The campaign is combined with workshops with governments, students and the clean-tech industry to work together and make a whole city smog free. “We are on a mission for clean air,” says Roosegaarde.
Smart Highway- Interactive and sustainable roads of tomorrow
Smart Highway are interactive and sustainable roads of tomorrow by Roosegaarde and Heijmans Infrastructure. The goal is to make smart roads by using light, energy and information that interact with the traffic situation. Smart Highway consists of projects Glowing Lines, Dynamic Paint, Interactive Light, Induction Priority Lane, and Road Printer.
The first design of the project Glowing Lines charges during daytime and glow at night for several hours to create an iconic highway experience and increase safety. The first Glowing Lines have been realised after a trial period of 3 months in the Netherlands and glows up to eight hours at night. Glowing Lines will further be developed and launched internationally.
Other designs such as Van Gogh Bicycle path and Gates of Light have also been realised to enhance safety and poetry. The Van Gogh Path shares the same vision, made of thousands twinkling stones inspired by his iconic paining ‘Starry Night’. The path combines innovation with cultural heritage in the town of Nuenen NL, the place where Van Gogh lived in 1883
Space Waste Lab
Right now there are more than 29.000 objects larger than 10 centimeters floating around the earth. It is space waste; parts of broken rockets and satellites. This waste can damage our current satellites, with collisions creating more space waste and disturbing our digital communications. And nobody really knows how to fix it.
Space Waste Lab is the multi-year living lab with the European Space Agency and Studio Roosegaarde to visualise, capture, and upcycle space waste into sustainable experiences. Space Waste Lab is exhibited in the Netherlands and Italy to raise awareness about space waste, and wonder about new solutions. The Space Waste Lab performance visualises the space waste above your head real-time with large green beams of light.
Space Waste Lab has a focus on upcyling space waste such as creating Shooting Stars from captured space waste in 2025, 3D-printing of moon habitats, and a gigantic sun reflector to reduce climate change.”We need to look at space in a better way. What is space waste, how can we fix it, and what is its potential? Space waste is the smog of our universe,” says Roosegaarde.
Roosegaarde’s latest artwork GROW is an homage to the beauty of agriculture. The film GROW shows the development of this luminous dreamscape and how the beauty of light can help plants.
“GROW is the dreamscape which shows the beauty of light and sustainability. Not as a utopia but as a protopia, improving step by step,” says Roosegaarde. GROW consists of a design-based light recipe which shines vertically across 20,000 square metres of farmland with leeks (Allium porrum). You experience the artwork as ‘dancing lights’ across the huge agricultural field. The light is poetic, and inspired by photobiology light science technologies which have shown that certain recipes of blue, red, and ultraviolet light can enhance plant growth and reduce the use of pesticides by up to 50%. GROW is precision lighting, and also a call for enlightenment during these dark times. GROW can be good for nature but also sends hopeful light to people. It gives a new meaning to the word ‘agri-culture’ by reframing the landscape as a living cultural artwork.
Roosegaarde and his team have been working on the creation of the world’s first URBAN SUN The project aims to inspire safer social gatherings and cleans the coronavirus from public spaces to bring well-being. URBAN SUN is inspired by scientists who proved that the light wavelength of 222 nanometres can eliminate up to 99.9% of the coronavirus while being safe for animals and people.
Roosegaarde frequently shares his visionary ideas and projects at lectures across the world, including at TED and NASA and has been selected by Forbes, WIRED and Good 100 as a creative change maker. He is Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum, visiting professor at the University of Monterrey in Mexico, advisor for Design Singapore Council, visiting professor at Tongji University Shanghai, and a member of the NASA Innovation team.