“Designing is never about creating another chair or lamp. For me, it’s about improving life. When designing cities, products or a landscape, ‘schoonheid’ should be the guideline – a Dutch word meaning both beauty and cleanliness – to create things that are wonderful to look at and use but at the same time improve the world we live in”. Thus began my conversation with Daan Roosegaarde (b. Netherlands, 1979) who we can define as designer, inventor, visionary, creative, architect or simply: artist.
Each of his projects are aimed at the future and the sustainability of the individual, a kind of challenge in society that is so different and complicated from place to place. Thanks to technology, every work such as Touch, Urban Sun, Smog Free Project and latest works Seeing Star and Spark, Roosegaarde creates a visual and immersive poetry. He invites the viewer to reflect on their own condition and on their own possibilities to improve the quality of life and, therefore, themselves.
After attending schools in the south of Holland, Nieuwkoop, Daan Roosegaarde moved to Arnhem to study at the Institute for the Arts. He continued his training at the Academy of Fine Arts in Enschede and finally attained his Master’s degree at the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam. This long training path the artist has developed over time is an approach to art between science and innovation, mostly inspired by nature and everything surrounding us. A member of the NASA Innovation team, Roseengaarde has been recognised by the World Design Awards (2021), Global Future Design Awards (2021), Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Award, People’s Lovie Winner, Architecture Master Prize (2021), MANA Global New Media Art, World USA Technology Award, Design for Asia Award, ADC Annual Awards, among others.
FRONTRUNNER is proud to present a conversation with the visionary Roosegaarde.
WIRED and Forbes listed you as one of the global leaders at the World Economic Forum, but when and where did you begin?
In 2007, I founded Studio Roosegaarde: the Dream Factory, where I work with a team of designers and engineers towards a better future and turning dreams into reality. Together, we develop “Landscapes of the Future” and build smart, sustainable prototypes for the cities of tomorrow which include art, technology and innovation. We don’t live in a static world, but a fluid one. The things we are doing today, in terms of the economy and energy, are no longer effective. We first have to imagine the future to be able to create. For me, designing starts with an obsession. Either I am fascinated by something, or I am annoyed or irritated by something. I’m a voluntary prisoner of my own imagination. I’m pretty determined, once I come up with an idea, I team up with people who make it happen. We start with an idea, make a prototype, and make it work. I think it’s also very important to mention that creative thinking and creativity is our true capital, and designers are really good at that. So, I think we have a very good future-proof occupation, discipline, but let’s do more!
Between architecture and design, where do you find inspiration for your projects?
From an early age, I have been driven by nature’s gifts like luminous fireflies or jellyfish. There’s this notion of enjoying nature, while also trying to upgrade and improve it and to create more liveable places in urban environments for everyday life. That is something that inspires me. A lot of things in my life are driven by inspiration, but also by frustration; you look at the world and you don’t get it, you don’t understand it, you’re confused, wondering why we are doing it like this. I look outside my window and I do not understand society anymore, it’s very confusing: traffic jams, air pollution, rising water levels, CO2 emissions. So I can do 2 things: complain, hide in a room and blame somebody else, or I can say, “Well, we’ve created this situation, let’s design, let’s engineer our way out of it”. In that way, I feel like an activist. Not with signs shouting on the streets, but as an activator showing the beauty and the potential of a sustainable society. There’s also a small piece of me which is not work-related, but most of the time it’s just spending an incredible amount of time, love and energy on making these kinds of projects happen. It’s a little bit of a full package. Not much of a social life, no Cava in the garden every night. But who knows, maybe I will learn one day.
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