Daan Roosegaarde is a Dutch artist and founder of Studio Roosegaarde, which develops projects that merge technology and art in urban environments.
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I am Daan Roosegaarde, a Dutch artist, designer and innovator. Right now I am at the World Economic Forum in China where we want to upgrade reality. Together with my team at Studio Roosegaarde we create Landscapes of the Future using creativity and new technologies to make places which are good for people. One of the recent works is the Smog Free Tower, the largest smog vacuum cleaner in the world which is currently placed in Dalian, China. It sucks up polluted air and creates clean air parks. From the collected smog particles we make jewellery. Other internationally projects are Intimacy (fashion which changes in transparency), Sustainable Dance Floor (dance floors which generate power) and Smart Highway (roads or bicycle paths which charge from sunlight and glow at night). Check out our website
Recently I started using the word ‘Schoonheid’ when we design our future cities and landscapes. ’Schoonheid' is a typical Dutch word which has two meanings: ‘cleanliness’ as in clean air, clean water, clean energy, and ‘beauty’ as in sublime aesthetics and creativity. Our desire for Schoonheid drives my practice to create better conditions in cities. Cities should be liveable again by rethinking processes and upgrading urban structures for a better quality of life. I believe we are all makers, not just consumers. We should be a part of the solution instead of the problem.
Feel free to Ask Me Anything on what I think design can do for our future landscapes and society!
Some background information -
Daan Roosegaarde (born 1979) is a Dutch artist, innovator and founder of Studio Roosegaarde, which create interactive innovations to explore the dynamic relation between people, technology and space. With his team of designers and engineers at Studio Roosegaarde he makes landscapes of the future a reality.
Works of Studio Roosegaarde have been commissioned by numerous organisations and exhibited at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Google Zeitgeist, Tate Modern, the Tokyo National Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Roosegaarde has won numerous international innovation awards and his public artworks are commissioned across the world. Studio Roosegaarde is based in Rotterdam (NL) at the "Dream Factory", a 1930s glass overlooking the city’s harbor. It also has a pop-up studio in Shanghai, China.
Hi Daan! Heard you are in China - how is it there? still a lot of smog?
Yes, I'm still here, and so is smog :) But it is not just China, London 5 weeks ago was almost more polluted than Beijing. So there is still some work to do. Check out our new Smog Free Bicycle design we launched yesterday with ofo, the bike sharing company.
Hi Daan...when might your smog eating bicycles be brought to market?
We are now in phase 1, just started. But we have experience with cleaning air in public space with Smog Free Tower. So now creating a team of engineers and designers in China and Netherlands: build a prototype, make a mistake, upgrade and than upscale. We will work with ofo to launch, and it is China so it should be fast and larger amounts. Quite exciting to work on, and happy to see people getting excited about the idea.
what are the biggest or strangest problems in terms of maintenance and upkeep for some of your projects?
Oh where do I start!? I think most has to do not with technology or money but more with perception. So when we launch a new project or innovation there are always some people who say: "it cannot be done" or "it won't work". And you know what the same people say when it's finally finished after long hard work? "Thats a good idea, why didn't you do it before?" haha. So it is really about upgrading reality.
I also like this one: in China we got a call from mayor office after installing our clean air tower: local people where coming with glass bottles to capture the clean air, and they started to sell it! I thought this was smart thinking of them. Not really the reason why we made it, because clean air should be for everyone for free, but still creative.
How's it going so far on WEF17?
We've spoken with each other before by phone and we share the same vision as visual artists and founders with a different outcome, I am more focussed on connecting people by visualising the source. Which is enriching each others work.
You're the only person I can relate too and I have so many questions (mostly art/business related, as balance).
Do you have time and interest to connect for half an hour (maybe monthly)?
Originally I live in Amsterdam, now in Japan.
I am sure it's worth it your time and as useful and inspirational for you too.
Hope it's possible!
Warm regards, Marijn
OK, great, well I have a whole 45 minutes now!
Look at this: ant hills which give clean air and create amazing underground structures: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFg21x2sj-M. Now that's a smart city.
How do you define a project price? Beside the common costs, since the value is higher than other projects. Like, how do you calculate the value? And do you prefer to work with Clients or Sponsors?
Good one: my first artwork '22 beds' in 2001 while studying fine arts I sold for 12 times my room rent which was around 3000,- euro. I was very happy about that.
These days its a balance between commissioned and self-commissioned projects. sometimes you get a question from a museum, or city, or an entrepreneur and you react to that. But sometimes we ask ourselves a question and we get to work, like Smog Free Project and client comes later. The calculation of a value is an endless ping-pong, there are no rules.
And besides artistic value, there's also a more pragmatic one; define your "burn rate" (I love that word) so what you spend on rent, people, coffee etc per year. And than connect this to your vision, your dream; what do you want to make, where do you want to be?; and what do you need to make this happen. The gap inbetween has to come from your paid projects.
does this helps Marijn?
What would you most like to tell us that no one has asked about?
I love this question. You know I had a lot of 'official' interviews this week but you reddit people ask way better questions!
give me a sec to think about it.
"If you would be an animal, what animal would you be?"
How did you first become interested in art and design?
When I was 16 my teacher pulled me to the architectural museum in Rotterdam. I didn't wanted to go. I walked on and saw this great wooden models of square and towers. It was the work of Arata Isozaki. That was for the first time I realised that I what I wanted to do, building stuff, creating, making, was actually a profession.
15 years later I got the chance to meet Isozaki in Japan, and share this story. We visited our Liquid Space project, a shape which changes physically to motion of people. He loved it, and we talked about making architecture more connected to people and how technology can help to improve life. Although he was 66 his mind was still as sharp as a razor blade.
Just curious, from perspective of value what makes it 12 times instead of 10 or 14? + I mean more the value of prevention, this saves so much costs. Like the smog tower for example.
— the site tells me I can only answer in 3 or 9 minutes and I can’t define well via text —
the 22 beds example was just so as a student I would have 1 year of time, 1 year not to pay my rent. That was freedom for me than. So define your dream, brake it down to numbers, and that was the value. Indeed now it become more complex, but still, see the value as an activator for your new dream. Always invest in your new dreams.
What is something you would love to work on but have not been able to yet? Maybe it's something that seems impossible?
Space waste, space debris. Right now there are 23.000 large junk particles floating in space caused by us. It is the smog of the universe. If a junk particle hits a satellite, it will get damaged, no more communication, no more reddit etc. So can we use the ionisation technology and creative thinking of Smog Free Project to clean up space. I don't know how yet, but this is whats in my brain.
Wonderful, thank you for sharing! You share it in different words, so it's unlocking a different layer. Doing the same and looking so much forward to connect it even more to my vision. How do you select people to work with you internally? Since it's only such few people who understand and can apply a certain vision. How do you grow bigger and keep the company (as structure/vehicle) connected to the vision?
And if yes, how may I contact you?
my pleasure. Well, if you do good projects, you attract good people, so you can do even better projects etc etc. It is always a divers group of designers, engineers, project managers, external experts. You need people with obsessions. This eco-system is indeed the real fun. Key is to keep the focus what you do and what you don't do. And than push until you're there.
and drop Hanne a line; she might can fix you a studio tour in our dream factory in Rotterdam: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For me this works very well with other companies as collaborating biome, not often on the eco-system level with individuals. Have some more questions about this in detail, because I do think it's possible.
What is your next step in collaboration?
I got to run now, but will be in Tokyo/Kyoto next week; drop me a line at email@example.com. CY
were there any problems with locals damaging the tower?
No, nothing. They actually like it, calling it the "clean air temple".
what about other projects where the more people use it, the more repairs or parts must be replaced?
When you design you use the best materials, most durable. You anticipate how people will use it. And we always provide a maintenance contract + yearly local check. Than repairs of parts are little.