The designer who sees his profession not as a brand illustration, but as a way to generate new ideas. His vision is for technology to become intimate and for cities to become smarter.
Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde chose Shanghai to open his second office after discussions with local designers and architects convinced him that in China there is an interest in change and a desire to adapt.
“When I give lectures there in auditoriums with one hundred seats, two hundred people turn up and there is always an hour of questions,” Roosegaarde says. “That makes me happy because my interest is not just in building stuff, but exchanging ideas and doing things differently to how it is predictably done in Europe.”
Roosegaarde’s vision is for interactive sustainable environments. During Beijing Design Week he spoke about how to make smarter and healthier cities, and exhibited three projects - Dune, Intimacy and Lotus as part of the Liberation of Light event.
“We live in an over-facebooked, over-digitalized world,” Roosegaarde says. “Technology is how we communicate and socially interact, but it is still dominated by Samsung and Philips and functionality technology.”
What Roosegaarde works towards is a world where technology jumps away from that and becomes part of the actual landscape.
“I’m usually asking the question, ‘What do we want from technology and how does it connect to ideology?’”
It’s about working out how sustainable highways (highways that generate electricity), Facebook Squares (an old-school public square albeit smart), smart fashion and energy efficient transportation can become a reality.
“For a Facebook Square, the challenge is working out how we create public spaces using technology that attracts people enough so that they look away from screens, how people can mediate again with each other,” says Roosegaarde. “It’s about dragging Facebook and what we are used to into the public experience. Nobody knows what that could look like, but we need to think about it.”
But it is not sci-fi that fascinates him. He is interested in a time frame of between now to ten years - not one hundred years. “Otherwise you can't really be held to account,” he admits.
Everything Roosegaarde talks about comes back to issues and ideology. Making more objects to fill living rooms is not what he even considers to be relevant design. “Designers need to thinking more about the future and working out how they can play a role in shaping it,” he says. “We don’t need any more chairs.”
And it is trying to avoid the label “product designer” that explains why for so long Roosegaarde assumed the title of artist instead of designer. “It’s just a word,” he says. It’s true that his early work was art, but that evolved as his interest in functionality and space grew.
And then in 2009 he won the Dutch Design Award for “Flow 5.0” – an interactive piece consisting of a ten meter long grid made from hundreds of small fans that come to life with the sound and movement created by the viewers. The fans react by creating an artificial breeze in the environment.
Roosegaarde had officially become a designer - whether he liked it or not.
“But I am an imposter,” he laughs. “A proper pain in the arse.”
He calls his relationship with the local Dutch design schools complicated. “We have a love-hate relationship,” he admits. “They hate me because I am not a part of their system, but they also like that I bring something new … Innovation can only ever come from the outside. No discipline can reinvent itself without outside assistance.”
With that said, it is the Dutch design mentality and even Dutch design graduates who Roosegaarde thinks have the gumption to embrace design as an ideology. “They have the right mental map,” he says. “We have the right cultural foundation and are very good at creating our own language and that is unique.”
He talks about organizations like Premsela - the Netherlands Institute for Design and Fashion and DutchDFA as wonderful incubators for design.
And although he is excited to have opened a studio in China, Roosegaarde says the Chinese have a different view on design. “There is an interesting cultural clash going on with the mentality of "copy-paste" repetition in Asia and our European attitude of "copy-morph" and of self-reflection," he says.
With that said, he agrees that China has the muscle to back up its proposals. “I am sick of European companies talking about what interests them but never doing anything about it,” he says. “In China more seems possible and everything going on here seems more related to the future.”
He also points out that the first Sustainable Highway will most likely be in China not Europe.
Next Roosegaarde will be collaborating with Rem Koolhaas on a yet-to-be-disclosed large-scale project and more green architecture. “That is more than just solar panels,” he says.
“I realized early on that to express my vision about a digital world, I could not work inside an architectural firm,” he says. “I needed to approach them with these ideas from the outside or they would never have listened.”
And it has noting to do with ego. “I like how they think,” he says anticipating my question. “They come up with ideas; I come up with ideas and then we realize that they match. A lot of it is also about updating the grammar these people use to express their ideologies.”
Roosegaarde’s first book, “Interactive Landscapes” is about future perspectives on every day reality.
The future is being designed now. “I think young designers should move away from big name like Vitra and instead think about the future - how cities can work, what they might look like and how design can play a role,” he says. "They need to think about how design can reconnect people to their reality."
It is clear why he refers to people like Buckminster Fuller as an inspiration. Fuller was the engineer and inventor who first developed the geodesic dome. “Design is not just about luxury,” Roosegaarde says. "It is about creating a new ideology." Next up for Roosegaarde is an interactive light design for Shanghai's parks.
Images: top two from "Dune","Intimacy", and bottom two from "Lotus". Click for more information on Roosegarde's projects.
Points of sale
( 15 Votes, average: 4 out of 5)
click to vote
- Amsterdam Fashion Week 2013
- Dutch Design Week 2012
- Milan 2012
- Amsterdam Fashion Week 2012
- Dutch Design Week 2011
- Amsterdam International Fashion Week 2010
- Amsterdam International Fashion Week 2011
- Dutch Design Week 2010
- Dutch Design Double 2010
- Milan 2010
- Design.nl 100th Issue Favourites
- Dutch Design Week 2009
- Dutch Design Double 2009
- Milan 2009
- Amsterdam International Fashion Week 2009
- Going Out - Restaurants, bars, cafes, clubs and hotels
- Graphic Design Festival 2008
- Dutch Design Week 2008
- Retail Therapy - Where to buy Dutch design
- FreeDesigndom 2008
- Milan 2008
- Amsterdam International Fashion Week 2008
- Design.nl Tokyo favourites