Solar power is one of the great hopes of the so-called clean energy transition to renewables. This TNL! Design Dialogues event brings together solar designers Marjan van Aubel and Pauline van Dongen and Het Nieuwe Instituut’s Anastasía Kubrak and Flora van Gaalen to talk about making the transition a reality.
Solar design is often said to mark the transition from technological solutionism to more integrated design thinking. Working with solar cells as a material to design with, solar design practice takes into account not only the emotional and aesthetic, but also the ethical, aspects of design. In this newly powered reality, buildings, clothing and objects can generate their own energy, turning consumers into active energy producers.
At the same time, it has to be acknowledged that, notwithstanding the abundance of the sun, the issue is how to store it’s energy. And we must also recognise that in order to produce batteries for storage, the extractive mining of elements such as lithium is depleting the planet.
Solar design raises important questions. What if in the future an object or building is considered to be broken if it doesn’t generate its own energy? And how do we make this energy transition while being aware that the real problem might be our endless longing for more?
After the discussion, Van Aubel will launch her solar lamp Sunne on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. This is her first product in a new line of integrated solar cells for the home. It represents a ‘solar democracy’ in which all objects and surfaces harvest their own energy. The solar lamp can be hung in a window frame to charge during the day, in order to emit a natural light in the evening.
Click here to go to the Kickstarter for Sunne.
TNL! Design Dialogues
A diverse series of dialogues with makers, designers, journalists and critics on design. The discussions take a close look at the designer’s process – from raw material to final object – exploring issues of aesthetic and technological change, ethical positions, sustainable cycles, and innovation in how objects perform and interact. In a culture saturated with design and mediated by digital technologies, these dialogues explore how the traditional senses of meaning, value and materiality are being reinvented.
Marjan van Aubel
Marjan van Aubel is an award-winning solar designer whose innovative practice spans the fields of sustainability, design and technology. In collaboration with scientists, engineers and institutions such as Swarovski and the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN.TNO), Van Aubel works to promote extreme energy efficiency through intelligent design. From working with expandable materials, to domestically integrating solar cells that mimic the process of photosynthesis in plants, she adds a double function to objects and puts them to work: a table is not just a table, but also a producer of electricity. Through her practice, she strives to redefine our current relationship with solar technology and accelerate its transition to ubiquity.
Pauline van Dongen
Pauline van Dongen is a Dutch fashion designer specialising in wearable technology. As a creator intrigued by the notion of interactivity in fashion, she researches the human body in relation to its surroundings. She is fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception, as she believes the future of fashion lies in its ability to be dynamic and change. To Van Dongen, technology is not a mere tool, but also an aesthetic matter. In her work, there’s a strong focus on materiality and its ability to enhance expression. The fact that we can now programme material pixel by pixel allows us to design new types of behaviour and create materials that can actively play on the body. The language and expression of the body give form to the garment. This establishes an intimate and personal connection with the wearer.
Anastasia Kubrak works in the Research Department at Het Nieuwe Instituut and teaches on the MA Social Design course at Design Academy Eindhoven. Her research revolves around the socio-political and environmental implications of emerging technologies, and her work has been published and exhibited by platforms including ARCH+, Valiz, Van Abbemuseum and Bureau Europa. She co-curated the Lithium exhibition at Het Nieuwe Instituut, which examines the role of the element in powering today’s economy.