Twinkling cycle paths, neon-lit highways, and a van Gogh-inspired street concept: The “techno poetry” of Dutch artist Daan Roosegarde combines light art and a new vision of mobility. A move that might revolutionize urban and rural traffic far beyond automotive issues.
Darkness envelops Nuenen, a small town near Eindhoven. Here, thousands of shimmering green stones line the landscape while luminous markings, reminiscent of a nocturnal landing strip, guide cars to their destination. Flanked by these neon lights, traffic slips through the veins of civilization.
This “techno poetry,” a brainchild of Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde, is currently making its mark on the Netherlands. Driven by the link between design and function, Roosegaarde’s installations give his urge for transforming urban space tangible shape: with his very own interpretation of street lighting concepts.
After countless of trips across Europe, the artist had simply become sick of the harsh contrast between static concrete and innovative technology. “When cars get smarter, the roads have to become smarter, too.”
Cycling through van Gogh’s sky
For inspiration, Roosegaarde looked no further than van Gogh’s starry sky: In Eindhoven, close to the famous painter’s old home, Roosegaarde recently opened a 1 km long cycle path using coated LEDs to recreate the night’s firmament.
Yet this almost mystical, enchanted, and dreamy work has a very functional aim: to overcome the passivity of street infrastructure and, at the same time, add a visual facet to enrich this infrastructure through the medium’s inherent dynamics.
“When we discuss mobility, we usually talk about cars and how to make them more beautiful or durable. Roads seem to have become completely disconnected from this thinking, although they are built for generations and are so important to how we experience a city,“ says Roosegaarde.
So why only focus on ever-evolving cars while their surroundings remain rooted in the past? To tackle this issue, the Rotterdam resident seeks salvation in technology that engages both data and the environment’s cultural background.
New smart highway with glowing lines
In a similar vein, Roosegaarde’s recently launched smart highway pilot project on the Dutch highway N329 focuses on both aesthetics and the added value for everyday traffic.
His “Glowing Lines” not only provide illumination and added safety, but also involve dynamic lighting: Drivers are only shown the information they need at any given point in time.
To this end, Roosegaarde and his team of twelve designers and engineers came up with a special temperature-sensitive “photo-luminizing powder.” Under icy conditions, for example, it will automatically display snowflake symbols. Future features might include color changes and further technological explorations.
Among others, and during set periods of time, Roosegaarde plans to use his technology to mark certain sections as designated cycle paths. When the lights are turned off again, the area reverts to pedestrian use.
Improving design, safety, and energy efficiency
While the artist currently concentrates on the natural darkness of rural areas, he also intends to take his illuminations to urban environments. “It’s all part of making cities more human and future-proof. Right now, the car industry is far too conservative. It focuses too much on the object and too little on the landscape.“
Meanwhile, his smart highways also tackle future energy challenges. During the day, the materials recharge for nocturnal use. According to Roosegaarde, the prototypes have passed testing and are now ready for production.
“The glowing lines and van Gogh stones are ready for launch.“ And while the overall costs remain to be determined, the artist is already working on an extension of his “techno poetry” beyond the confines of the tarmac. In co-operation with US company Bioglow, the designer is already researching new projects exploring luminous urban greens.
“We have to prototype our future”
“My projects are about enabling things, not reduction,” he explains. An approach to everyday architecture that reminds us of Christo. Like the latter, Daan Roosegaarde likes to include social aspects in his works.
Yet instead of taking stock of the status quo, he focuses on the question of tomorrow’s world. And provides his own answer: “In a way, the old world is no longer working, and the new one is unknown to us. So we have to prototype our own future.“
If this is the sound of “techno poetry,” it might be just what we need.
Header image: Daan Roosegaarde/ Studio Roosegarde