Marjan van Aubel
Marjan van Aubel is an award-winning solar designer whose innovative practice spans the fields of sustainability, design and technology. In collaboration with scientists, engineers and institutions such as Swarovski and ECN.TNO, the Dutch Energy Centre, van Aubel works to promote extreme energy efficiency through intelligent design. From working with expandable materials, to domestically integrating solar cells that mimic the process of photosynthesis in plants, she adds a double function to objects and puts them to work: A table is not just a table, but also a producer of electricity. Through her practice, she strives to redefine our current relationship with solar technology and accelerate its transition to ubiquity.
Her work is also part of the permanent collection at the MoMA in New York, the Vitra Design Museum, Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, The Montreal Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia.
She won numerous awards such as the Dutch Design Award (2019), WIRED’s Innovation Award, a Wallpaper Design Award, London Design festival Emerging Talent medal, she won the Climate Action Challenge by What Design Can Do and Swarovski named Marjan the Designer of the Future.
What is an Alternative Thinker for you?
An Alternative Thinker is a future thinker. The question is; which future are we going to choose? What are the things we can do to change this future into a positive, equal and sustainable one? An Alternative Thinker not only thinks but also acts to make these positive changes.
What are you bringing forward in your work?
The aim of my work is to speed up the energy transition towards renewable (solar) energy We get solar energy in abundance and it will become the cheapest way to generate energy. However, we still perceive it purely as a technology. To add design is very important and will contribute so that solar energy becomes more integrated and accepted into our daily environment.
Why did you highlight this/these specific project(s) below?
What would you like to see change in the current economy?
The focus on growth. This is a moment to see and experience that when we stop the greed for more, the system fails. It would be great to look to more sustainable, circular economies.
Tell us what your vision of the new world – post COVID-19 – is like?
I would like to see a world where we have more attention and make use of our local environment. Where we produce more locally and make better use of our natural resources. In case of Solar Energy; I would like to see a Solar Democracy where energy is harvested locally on the place where we directly use it.
Who would you like to collaborate with in terms of brands / institutions / property developers / other Alternative Thinkers?
It would be great to team up with companies / brands / institutions which would in the first instance seem an unexpected collaboration for Solar Design. All fields need energy, but the question of where this energy is coming from is never visible. If I say every surface is an opportunity to generate energy, I would like to stay open on what kind of surface this is.
Power Plant, 2018
Power Plant is a greenhouse that uses transparent solar glass to power its indoor climate; harvesting both food and electricity to grow the plants of the future, using the power of design. By placing Power Plant onto rooftops, we can reduce food miles by growing food to supply directly to the place we need it.
Power Plant, 2018
Power Plant, 2018
Current Table is not only a table, but also a natural energy source. Its glass surface is engineered from integrated dye-sensitised solar cells (DSSC) which use the property of colour to create electrical currents – mimicking the process of photosynthesis in plants.
The solar cells work efficiently even under diffuse light, making Current Table the first piece of furniture to harvest energy indoors.
By 2030 all governmental buildings in the Netherlands need to be circular and carbon neutral. How will those buildings function and what will they look like?
This proposal for the Dutch Ministry of Finance in The Hague investigates how solar energy can be integrated aesthetically and circular. The building will function as a test case and example for other governmental buildings by looking at natural phenomena such as heliotrophy (a surface that follows the light) and new types of solar technologies; a complete new approach of harvesting energy arises.