The Solar Seminar

9 Sep 2022, 10:3017:00, Het Nieuwe Instituut | Rotterdam
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The Solar Seminar explores solar futures built on the power of design, what these futures look like and how to make them a reality.


The Solar Seminar aims to unite diverse disciplines and viewpoints and promote sharing knowledge amongst professionals working with solar energy. We start with a dream and finish with concrete, actionable directions.

We look at our dreamed up solar world through 5 lenses; personal, social, spatial, environmental and digital. Together we emphasize the interconnectedness of humans, nature and our dependence on the sun. We call for a holistic approach, supported by interdisciplinary collaboration, appreciating the cultural dimension of solar energy, the role of Solar Design and incorporating it into the existing dominant economic and technical narratives. 

In part two of the Seminar we unpack the various dimensions on which solar energy and our relationships with the sun play out. In doing so, we specify what it takes to build a solar society. We look at concrete examples from practice, ask critical questions and bring diverse views and opinions together through city tours, panels and workshops. We share knowledge, create new connections and also look critically at existing approaches and solutions as well as the gaps and blind spots in the transition to a solar society.

During the last part of the Seminar, we formulate concrete directions and share actionable insights to realize these ideas together.

The Solar Seminar Agenda
  • 10:30    Opening with performance by Neila Moon, Singer Songwriter

    The Dutch/Congolese singer songwriter expresses her feelings through her music and strives for people to experience her music as an adventure through space. The Solar Biennale invited the multi-talented Neila Moon to reflect on her relation with the sun and translate that into a new musical creation. 

  • 10:35    Welcome words

    With Pauline van Dongen, Co-Founder of The Solar Movement, Marjan van Aubel, Co-Founder of The Solar Movement and Aric Chen, General and Artistic Director of Het Nieuwe Instituut.

  • 10:40    A Future Scenario for a Solar Society, viewed through 5 lenses

    1. Personal -Solar for the Senses by Pauline van Dongen, Solar Designer and Creative Director, Pauline van Dongen Studio

    Traditional (fossil-based) energy systems are typically placed out of sight, so that we often deal with them thoughtlessly. The same thing often seems to be happening with solar energy, when silicon panels are placed on roofs and in the landscape. Yet solar has the potential to get very close to us. And like the rays of the sun solar surfaces and objects in our everyday environment can imbue our experience of the world with meaning. So the question that arises is how can design help make solar energy be a personal matter by making it tangible, engaging and actionable.

    2. Social -The Decentralized Future of Energy by Neel Tamhane, Solar Lead, SPACE10

    Why decentralization & democratization of clean energy could help enable energy independence for nations around the world and leapfrog energy transitions in communities living with little or no access to electricity today

    3. Spatial- The formal and informal spatial consequences of the energy transition by Saskia van Stein, Managing Director, International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR)

    4. Environmental -Freedom Energy for Climate Impact: The many faces of solar electricity by Prof. Dr. Wim C. Sinke, Professor emeritus, University of Amsterdam

    5. Digital -Energy Centered Design by Alex Nathanson, Founder and lead designer, Solar Power for Artists/ Energy Transition Design LLC 

    How can designers engage with the energy context of their work?

  • 11:40    Panel - A Future Scenario for a Solar Society

    Following up the 5 vision presentations with a panel moderated by chair woman of the day Tracy Metz

  • 12:15    Lunch

    Time to stretch your legs, nourish your body, enjoy conversation with your fellow attendees and choose your breakout.

  • 13:15    6 Breakout sessions

    1. Personal - Designing with the Sun, a workshop by Angella Mackey and Monserrat Vallejo

    Solar power requires us to renegotiate our personal relationship to energy. We have been separated from the material and technological infrastructures that provide us with electricity, enabling us to over-consume energy in a seemingly limitless or even magical way without a tangible understanding of the consequences. In this workshop we will explore what it means to develop a personal and embodied relationship to sunlight in the context of solar energy, and how this might bring us into new relations with our energy use. Starting from the point of ourselves, we will engage the sun using portable solar panels and explore what it means to search for sunlight, to hear sunlight, and relate to it in more visceral ways. 

    This workshop is part of the research project Designing with the Sun. Participants in this session will be invited to further engage in the research project, if they so choose. Read more about the project here:

    2. Social - Community-driven Solutions, a workshop by Neel Tamhane, SPACE10 

    In this workshop Neel takes you through exercises, thought experiments and other design methods to come up with community-driven solar solutions.

    3. Spatial/social - Walking tour BoTu: A Manpowered City District (Dutch spoken)

    Note: starting point for the tour is Jan Kobellstraat 56a. Walk: 30 mins. Bike: 10 mins. Public Transport: 14 mins by metro A, B or C.

    Bospolder-Tussendijken in Delfshaven, also lovingly referred to as BoTu by, will be the first climate neutral neighborhood of Rotterdam in 2035. House of the Future and UrbanGuides take you on a tour to not only explore the district, but also the broader global challenge of energy transition through new eyes. For this, the House of the Future developed the future scenario ‘BoTu Manpowered’ in which the energy production is generated exclusively by two locally available sources: manpower and biomass, here and there supported by solar and wind energy. Your tour guide connects this future scenario to the history of the neighborhood that functioned, with its bath house, community kitchen and laundry, from its very beginning without the use of fossil fuels. Be inspired by a new (and in some ways maybe old) perspective on a future of living together.

    4. Spatial - Whose Energy is it? curated by IABR (Dutch spoken)

    (Note this event takes place at Keilepand. Transportation is arranged)

    The International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam IABR) has partnered with the Solar Biennale, an initiative of solar designers Marjan van Aubel and Pauline van Dongen, and will collaborate in bringing forward the conversation on the spacial consequence of solar design. As we face an unprecedented transition towards renewable energy, the design challenges are systemic and on multiple scales, from the domestic interior to redesigning infrastructures.

    The IABR has a deep seated and long standing interest in the ramifications and spatial implications of climate change and what role architecture could play in them. The energy transition will change the ways we move, cook and live, requiring new power stations, transport systems and electrical distribution networks. This will transform how our cities are built and experienced.

    On September 9th, the opening symposium of The Solar Biennale, IABR curator Derk Loorbach (DRIFT) will host a breakout session, as will OOZE (Eva Phannes and Sylvian Hartenberg) and Robbert de Vrieze (Transformism). IABR Director Saskia van Stein will kick-off with a short lecture on the formal and informal spatial consequences the energy transition entail.

    5. Environmental - Sustainable Solar, a panel discussion

    We have put all our cards on solar panels. Lots of them and as fast as possible. But are we sure that this is the right path to a better future? Do we regard solar panels as an enrichment or a pollution of our natural and build environment? How recyclable are its materials? And are these panels produced in a way that respects workers and the environment? Essential questions that urgently need to be answered if we want to continue to enjoy the abunddant energy of the sun. 

    In this panel Angele Reinders (Professor of 'Design of Sustainable Energy Systems', TU/e), Roebyem Anders (Co-Founder and Board member, Sungevity International) and Siemen Brinksma (Founder, Biosphere Solar) weigh in, and invite you to join their discussion.

    6. Solar Education - Solar Powered Draw Bots, a workshop by Alex Nathanson

    This hands-on workshop will introduce participants to creating solar powered electronic art. Over the course of this workshop, Alex will cover basic electronic knowledge and discuss a number of concepts and methods for incorporating photovoltaic solar power into art. Participants will design and build a solar powered draw bot and have new insight into the challenges and possibilities of incorporating sustainable energy into our daily lives through both practical and experimental uses.

  • 14:45    Break

    Time to stretch your legs and exchange break out experiences with your fellow attendees.

  • 15:15    Welcome back

    Enjoy more work from Neila Moon, Singer Songwriter

  • 15:20    Feedback from breakout sessions

    Tracy Metz checks in with the audience and finds out what they're taking away from their break outs.

  • 15:35    Solar Futures, How to Design a Post-Fossil World with the Sun by Marjan van Aubel

    Marjan van Aubel, solar designer and co-founder of The Solar Movement and The Solar Biennale, draws from her new book 'Solar Futures, How to Design a Post-Fossil World with the Sun', to imagine what a solar society could look like.

  • 16:00    Interview with Chantal Zeegers, Vice-Mayor Rotterdam

    Rotterdam is the host city for the first The Solar Biennale. Vice-Mayor Chantal Zeegers, who holds the city’s portfolio for Climate, Build Environment and Housing, will explain why Rotterdam’s solar ambitions to become the solar capital of The Netherlands align so well with The Solar Biennale. 

  • 16:15    The Solar Biennale - 7 weeks of solar program

    What can you expect of 7 weeks of The Solar Biennale program? With Pauline van Dongen, Solar designer and co-founder of The Solar Movement and The Solar Biennale, and Pallas Agterberg, Chair woman of the Board of The Solar Movement.

  • 16:30    End of Solar seminar

    Half an hour to reflect on a packed day while you anticipate the opening of The Energy Show!


Date: 09.09.22
Time: 10:30 - 17.00
Location: Het Nieuwe Instituut

  • Angella Mackey

    Dr. Angella Mackey is a design researcher and educator based in the Netherlands at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS). Her teaching and research focus on navigating design processes in the context of making and working with digital tools, artefacts and materials. She has had a professional design practise for more than a decade, working with a wide range of industries, from healthcare to commercial space travel in the context of wearable technologies. Currently, her research is concentrated on issues of the energy transition and solar power. See Mackey's work here:

  • Tracy Metz

    Tracy Metz is a Dutch-American journalist, author, moderator and podcast host. She is originally from California, but has lived in the Netherlands for many years. She writes for the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad and the magazine De Architect, and for many years had a monthly talkshow on urban issues, ‘Stadsleven’. This year she started a podcast in Dutch for the radio station BNR called ‘Nattigheid’,  about the changing relationship of the Dutch to water – a relationship which is fundamental to life in the Netherlands. Much of her work revolves around our relationship to our built and natural environment, inspired at least in part by the contrast between her place of origin in the dry region of southern California and the importance of water in her adopted country, the Netherlands. She has written a number of books on this theme, the last of which was the best-selling ‘Sweet&Salt: Water and the Dutch’.

  • Alex Nathanson

    Alex Nathanson is a designer, artist, technologist, and educator. His work is primarily focused on exploring both the experimental and practical applications of sustainable energy technologies, particularly photovoltaic solar power. His work has been featured at Issue Project Room, the Museum of the Moving Image, Film Society of Lincoln Center, Aros Aarhus Art Museum, and the Art Prospect Festival. He was one of the long-term artists in residence at Flux Factory from 2012 to 2016, and his multi-media performance group Fan Letters was awarded multiple residencies at The Watermill Center. Solar Protocol, a collaboration with Tega Brain and Benedetta Piantella, has been awarded fellowships from Eyebeam, Code for Science and Society, and Mozilla Foundation. Nathanson is the founder and lead designer of the education platform Solar Power for Artists and its partner studio Energy Transition Design LLC. Both the platform and studio are focused on making sustainable energy accessible, tactile, and understandable. As a solar power designer, he has created interactive and educational projects for The Climate Museum, Peabody Essex Museum, Solar One, and the NYC Department of Education, among others. Most recently, his book A History of Solar Power Art and Design was published by Routledge.

  • Prof. dr. Wim C. Sinke

    Prof. dr. Wim C. Sinke (1955) is a specialist in the field of solar energy technology and application. Until his retirement in May 2022, he was principal scientist at TNO and professor of Photovoltaic Energy Conversion at the University of Amsterdam. He is also co-chair of the European Technology & Innovation Platform for Photovoltaics (ETIP PV). Wim Sinke studied experimental physics at Utrecht University and did PhD research in the field of solar cells from 1981 to 1985 at the FOM Institute AMOLF in Amsterdam. He then worked as a postdoc at the Hitachi Central Research Laboratory in Tokyo, Japan, and as a group leader at AMOLF before joining ECN in 1990 to set up the research program in the field of photovoltaic solar energy (PV). Since 1 April 2018, ECN and TNO have joined forces in the field of energy research and the research is carried out in TNO’s Energy Transition Unit.

    For his research into solar cells and his contributions to the development and application of PV, he received the Jacob Kistemaker Prize from FOM in 1992, the NOZ-PV Prize from Novem (now in 1998, the Royal Dutch/Shell Prize for Sustainable Development and Energy in 1999, and the prestigious European Becquerel Prize in 2011. In 2015 he was appointed Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion for his achievements in the field of solar energy.

  • Saskia van Stein

    Saskia van Stein has recently been appointed artistic and managing Director of the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR). Van Stein currently also holds the position as Head of Department MA entitled The Critical Inquiry Lab at the Design Academy, Eindhoven. Prior to this, she was artistic and managing Director at Bureau Europa, platform for architecture and design, Maastricht, 2013–2019. Over the span of her carrier, she has curated numerous (traveling) exhibitions, biennales, given (performative) lectures, spoken at or moderated symposia and contributed to other cultural events both in and outside of the confined walls of the institutional realm of the museum, in the Netherlands and abroad. She has often spearheaded topics and themes questioning cultural production and the designed environment itself.

  • Neel Tamhane

    Neel Tamhane is the solar strategy lead at SPACE10 - IKEA’s global research and design lab. Neel is leading research explorations and identifying opportunities for how solar energy can become a key enabler for communities with limited means to improve their everyday life at home. Neel has led product development of a localized energy trading platform (SOLshare) to enable it to democratize clean energy in the past. He is currently designing renewable energy products and services that are not only aimed to help people with limited energy access step up in the energy ladder but also empower users in urban areas to make the energy transition by taking power into their own hands.

  • Monserrat Vallejo

    Monserrat Vallejo is an artist, designer and researcher at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS), with a background in social textiles and digital design. Her work currently focuses on ways technology can be used to reveal unseen dimensions between people and things, experimenting with a variety of approaches such explorations of AR technologies, children at play, and portable solar power.