Over the last ten years, Dutch Daan Roosegaarde has been combining art and technological innovation. His aim is to raise awareness about ecological causes and offer sustainable alternatives.
In recent years, the Netherlands has been one of the five most innovative countries in the world .
The country’s history and geography mean it has always had to be forward-looking. A large proportion of the country is below sea level - polders were built and now represent 17% of the country. Similarly, the flat landscape is a highly suitable location for a large wind farm.
"The Netherlands is the best example of how creative technology enables people to survive. We didn’t migrate to Germany, we just developed a symbiotic relationship with nature," says Daan Roosegaarde. Following on in the tradition of Dutch inventors, this thirty-seven-year-old prefers to describe himself as an "artist and innovator".
After studying in the country's most prestigious art schools (ArtEZ, Berlage Institute), Daan Roosegaarde set up Studio Roosengaarde in 2007. It’s a "laboratory that builds tomorrow’s landscape”. Concretely, it is about creating technology-based art and design works that provide food for thought and sometimes even become sustainable solutions in the environment of the future. "We live in the 21st century - creative tools have evolved with smart connected objects and the inexhaustible source of inspiration provided by the internet. This gives us a completely new type of freedom of expression," explains the artist.
Dance floors and Beijing vacuum cleaners
His first design? The Sustainable Dance Floor, a dance floor where people produce their own energy. Installed in the appropriately named WATT club in 2008, it is also interactive - the LED system turns green as people dance. "The idea was to show that the environment and green energy could be found in places where they would not necessarily be expected - in a night club with a crowd of people having fun," says Daan Roosegaarde.
The artist went on to invent two different - and smart - road surfaces. The first, for cyclists was named the Van Gogh Path in tribute to the Dutch master. It has reflective photovoltaic strips that produce green dots of light on the ground at nightfall. The second, called the Smart Highway, follows the same principle but is applied to sections of highways. "The common denominator in my work is showing the potential of a green world. Some things are more pragmatic and scientifically based. Others are more poetic and play on people’s imagination because we are only limited by our imaginations and not technical constraints," he explains. This was particularly true of the Waterlicht experiment, in which a light beam installed on the Museumplein in Amsterdam simulated the water level should there be floods due to global warming.
But Daan Roosegaarde’s greatest feat is the Smog Free Tower. And he is very proud of it. And for good reason. This "giant vacuum cleaner" is able to purify up to 30,000 m³ of pollution per hour. It runs on wind energy and only consumes the same power as an electric water heater. The icing on the cake is that the pollution is collected and compacted and then transformed into luxury rings which are sold for 250 euros (each one is equivalent to 1,000 m³ of treated pollution).
The innovation will also be in Delhi by the end of the year.
Between Rotterdam and Shanghai, Studio Roosegaarde now employs around 20 people who are responsible for thinking up new, sustainable designs. Some of them involve more than 100 people, as was the case with the Icoon Afsluitdijk, commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment. It will be inaugurated next November and will reduce energy expenditure and eliminate light pollution on the 32 kilometers of the Afsluitdijk dam with windvogels (kites, in Dutch) each capable of generating up to 100 kW.
Today, the Dutch artist and innovator is working on a project that would clean up space "where there is an enormous amount of debris endangering satellites".