Daan Roosegaarde: Prototyping the future of cities
Daan Roosegaarde, Dutch innovator and Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum, talks about his passion for prototyping the future of cities and what it means to be a leader in society and design. This interview is featured in Open Manifesto #8, which focuses on the theme ‘Change’.
Kevin Finn: Among other things, your work involves art, design, innovation, science, engineering, architecture, business, and politics. So, how do you describe yourself? How do you describe what you do?
Daan Roosegaarde: I’m a maker [laughs]. It’s very simple. And most of all, I’m a hunter. I hunt ideas, which is very important. I have an idea in my brain and I become a sort of a solitary prisoner of the imagination. I start hunting the ideas to grab them, to drag them into reality. That’s the best way to describe it.
All the things that you mentioned are somehow tools in order to enable that. I’m in the studio with smart people, so you need an entrepreneurial side, you need to work inside the artist to make sure an idea survives in the world we live in. And you need a sort of political agenda to create impact. But I think, most of all, it’s the hunting and the capturing of an idea, and then dragging that idea into a better direction.
In 2006, you founded Studio Roosegaarde and since then you’ve made a massive impact, not only in creative terms but also on a social and cultural level, too. How did you embark on this trajectory? What was your foundation project, or your initial sponsor, or client?
I started when I was studying Fine Art in 2003. I built one of the first liquid space installations. It was a huge sculpture—eight by four by five meters. I made it with some whizz kids from the The Fine Arts Academy, which was based nearby.
When you entered the space it would become smaller and bigger, with the notion of space reacting to your senses, rather than the sum of walls, door and windows.
We worked on that project for about a year, to a year and a half. When it was launched, it worked for three weeks, and then it died. But that was the first time I realized that I can use technology to bring things alive, where the visitor isn’t just an observer but a participant—sort of directly connected to the DNA or the behavior of the artwork itself.
Jumping out of art school I studied a Masters of Architecture, and then worked at [Rem Koolhaas’s] OMA, as well as MVRDV, and some other architectural studios. Around this time, we built the first Dune project, which uses fibers of light that react to the sounds and motion of people. We actually did the first pilot in the Maastunnel, the pedestrian tunnel, in Rotterdam.