This was The Solar Biennale 2022
Here we are, all under the same sun. Its powerful rays are calling us louder than ever. We have reached a critical point. Our polluting energy system based on finite fossil fuels is in dire need of replacement. Fortunately, a hopeful alternative is within reach. For the first time in our history, solar energy is the cheapest source of electricity for most major countries. This begs the question: why is solar energy not yet widespread and embraced by society? Because in order to accelerate the energy transition and make it accessible to all, it is crucial that solar energy becomes a natural part of everyone’s daily experience.
To change the dominant narrative about solar energy. It focuses on technical and economic considerations, such as efficiency and payback time. This one-sided perspective leaves no room for human and cultural values. It is time to create space for wonder, design and imagination. Space for pioneers who bring the human scale back to the drawing board. Space for aesthetics, proximity and interaction. So that we can engage in profound and emotional relationships with solar energy.
With The Solar Biennale, we paid tribute to the sun and showed how we can capture and use its energy in all kinds of meaningful ways. With ‘solar design’, we used our design strength to formulate solutions, develop new systems, influence patterns of thought and behaviour, as well as to enable products, surfaces and buildings to generate sustainable energy in an integrated manner. There are countless possibilities in terms of shape, color, transparency and flexibility. We can print on solar cells or have our clothes generate solar energy. We have not yet run out of possibilities to deal with the sun and its energy in an exciting and engaging way.
The Solar Biennale looked at the grand theme of solar energy through five lenses, each of which maneuvers beyond efficiency in its own way: personal, social, spatial, environmental and digital. The proposals and the programmes in collaboration with various locations, organisations and designers such as [Museum]ParX, Studio Roosegaarde, BlueCity, Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, IABR, Next Nature Network and Dutch Design Week offered a critical but accessible look into that changing process. With the exhibition ‘The Energy Show – Sun, solar and Human Power’, Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam Museumpark formed the heart of the biennial.
In collaboration with curator Matylda Krzykowski and Het Nieuwe Instituut, we presented the cultural, social, and ecological perspectives of solar technology in a chronological manner. The exhibition considers the visitor’s personal energy level and shows dozens of innovative examples that call for action.
SUN in the City
With the interactive SUN in the City programme, The Solar Biennale aimed to inspire citizens. We met them outside, on the streets, where the sun shined and people gather, we offered information, solar musical experiences, yoga and dialogue on both solar energy and the energy transition. You could find SUN in the City at different locations including Rotterdamse Oogst, Paviljoen aan het Water, Prins Alexanderplein and Middellandplein.
In The Solar Lab program, various prominent solar designers, solar researchers and solar engineers led you into their world. They were not afraid to share their inspiration and extensive knowledge, but were also open to your feedback, or gave feedback on the ideas of the participants. The Solar Labs took place twice in September and October.
The Solar Movement
Finally, in addition to an extensive programme, the start of the biennial also marked the beginning of The Solar Movement. An international network of people who want to contribute to a future built with solar design. The foundation is a Solar Manifest and a set of Solar Principles that serve as guidelines for solar designers, so that solar design as a discipline can become more widespread. The manifest and the principles are available through our website! Let solar design get under your skin and feel the energy of the sun flow through your body! We invite you to follow the sun and build a solar future with us.
See you soon!
Marjan van Aubel and Pauline van Dongen
On behalf of the entire team of The Solar Biennale and its partners. The Solar Biennale would not have existed without the unconditional support and enthusiasm of the board, participating speakers, graphic designers, advisors, writers, staff, volunteers and finally, our friends and family whose efforts we greatly appreciate.