Editor's letter

In praise of visionaries

While we need activists to raise awareness about the serious plight of our planet, we also need visionaries to bring innovative, fun and positive solutions to the table, argues Magali Robathan


In this issue we interview Dutch designer and inventor Daan Roosegaarde. I’ve been following Roosegaarde’s work for many years. I love how he thinks big and uses technology to come up with fun, original and beautiful projects that raise awareness of climate change and propose solutions for a cleaner and brighter future.

From his sustainable dance floor (which converts the pressure from people dancing into electricity to power the nightclub’s lighting and DJ booth) to his project that turns air pollution into jewellery, these are ideas that aim to get people talking.

We’re living through worrying times, there’s no doubt about that. We need people like Greta Thunberg to highlight the seriousness of the climate emergency we’re facing so that we can make big changes on governmental and personal levels, but we also need people to bring hope and fun and positive solutions to the table. As Roosegaarde has said in the past, “We have an obligation to be positive.”

“If I didn’t work like this, I’d go crazy because it’s very confusing how the world is behaving right now,” he tells CLAD.

“We can blame somebody else and sit in a corner waiting for our leaders to fix things, or we can say we’ve created this situation so let’s design a way out of it. I prefer to spend my time and energy on the second scenario. It’s less about being optimistic, and more about seeing that there’s no alternative.”

With his concept of ‘hedonistic sustainability,’ BIG founder Bjarke Ingels argues that sustainable design should improve our lives rather than force us to give up the things we love. On p78 we report on the opening of CopenHill, where a waste-to-energy plant is providing clean electricity for around 30,000 households in Copenhagen and central heating for 72,000 households while also offering an exciting new leisure destination, because, well – why not?

On a personal level I’m trying to adopt this approach. As a family, we’ve pledged to avoid flying as much as possible. Instead of being sad about the opportunities this cuts out, we’re thinking of the new adventures it might bring... a rail trip to Morocco? More holidays closer to home? We’ve recently moved house and instead of ripping out the kitchen and buying mountains of new things, we’re trying to find ways to adapt what’s already here to our style. Constraints are where creativity really comes into play, and the challenge can be inspiring.

Roosegaarde believes Dutch pragmatism comes partly from the fact that as a nation they’ve lived below sea level for more than 1,000 years. That’s a serious constraint! “We use design and creative thinking to create our own home, so in a way, innovation is in the DNA of our landscape,” he says.

All hail the visionaries. We need to bring hope to the future.

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