One of the most exclusive guests of Belgrade design Week was Daan Roosegaarde, founder of Roosegaarde studio, who experiment with landscapes, making them sensitive to external stimulation and turning the unimaginable into tangible. The most prominent innovation of this team of 13 are certainly its „smart highways“ or „roads of the future“, which will soon be tested in netherlands on a 1 km road section.

Do smart highways require smart drivers?

(Laughing) No, no. The name refers to the principle of sustainability and the ability of these roads to glow in the dark, measure temperature, speed of the wind, and even to charge electric cars… And to the fact that they are beautiful.

It all started when we noticed that contemporary designers are only interested in the look of the cars, while roads and landscapes remain unfairly neglected. We constructed about twenty interactive landscapes which react to human voice or change their color, and then we started working on roads.

Your roads of the future are inspired by the underwater world. Tell us how?

Analyzing the principles of how nature works, and the ways to learn from it, the thing that caught our attention was the jelly fish and its ability to produce light in complete darkness. So we created road stripes that glow increasingly as a vehicle approaches and turn off when it passes, color indicating slippery road based on temperature, stripes that charge electric cars, etc.

Is building such roads expensive?

Since these are innovative technologies – yes, but when you consider the energy savings, it will pay off very soon. That’s the thing with progress – at first, new ideas are available to a small number of people, and then they become commonly used, which is what happened with the camera that is installed on every mobile phone nowadays. Teflon, which makes it possible that pancakes don’t get pasted on a pan, was invented as a part of expedition to the Moon.

Have you heard that in the south of serbia someone painted all the road signs black? What do you think about that?
As a form of protest against a rule or something like that – I can understand it, especially after having talked to young people from this country. But I think the job of a designer is to offer a solution, not just criticize the current situation. If we don’t do it, who will?

How do you like Belgrade?

This is my third time here and I love Belgrade’s frustration, it’s exciting. The reason for my visit is also great, because this conference brings together a lot of good energy. The exhibition is excellent, as well as the Museum.

But, it is not allowed to touch the objects exhibited here…
I am not comfortable with such rules either, so I even launched an exhibition in which I asked the visitors to touch the pieces and everyone was thrilled to be able to participate. Design is intended for use, so feel free to touch it, and if someone tries to stop you, just say that I gave you my permission. (laughing).

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Because sometimes you go to some more established places there is always saturation. Here seems that you manage to see things and you manage to talk to people.