When we first met designers Marjan van Aubel and Pauline van Dongen, they were just starting to make waves with their ambitious ideas about the future of solar energy. Today they have become figureheads for a growing movement that puts creativity—rather than technology—at the heart of the solar conversation. On 9 September 2022, the duo will open the world’s first Solar Biennale, which is set to take place in Rotterdam and Eindhoven. Bringing together designers, scientists, policymakers and consumers alike, the festival will showcase how art, design and dialogue can move us towards a post-fossil future. 

How can we use the sun to build a society that brings nature and design together but also restores the balance between people and the environment?

‘The prevailing narrative around solar energy focuses on technical and economic considerations,’ say Marjan and Pauline about the current status of the industry. They note that with so much emphasis being placed on efficiency and payback time, not enough is being invested in the ‘human angle’ of a solar-powered world. ‘Solar farms are being rolled out at breakneck speed to meet the growing need for—but in our haste, we merely pile on existing ideas. To accelerate the energy transition, it is crucial that people embrace solar energy as an integral part of their lived experience.’

And what is needed to achieve this? ‘Room for wonder, design and imagination. Room for pioneers who bring the human dimension to the drawing board, so that we can also enter into aesthetic and emotional relationships with solar energy.’ This is exactly what the Solar Biennale aims to provide through a rich programme which opens at The New Institute in Rotterdam and culminates in the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven in October.


Over a period of seven weeks, the biennale will present the following activities, which include exhibitions, installations, labs and lectures by some of the most exciting solar designers from the Netherlands and beyond.

Solar Seminar
9 Sep, The New Institute | Rotterdam

Starting things off with a bang, the Solar Seminar explores solar futures built on the power of design. Renowned speakers like Wim Sinke, alderman Chantal Zeegers, Alex Nathanson, Monserat Vallejo, Angella Mackey and Neel Tamhane will share their insights on what these futures look like and how to make them a reality.

The Energy Show – Sun, Solar and Human Power
9 Sep—5 Mar 2023, The New Institute | Rotterdam

How much energy do we have and need today? This question opens The Energy Show – Sun, Solar and Human Power, an exhibition that can be seen from 3 September 2022 to 5 March 2023 at The New Institute in Rotterdam.

Sun in the City
9 Sep—30 Oct | Rotterdam

The Solar Biennale reaches out to all the people of Rotterdam with the Sun in the City programme. Together with many others we bring the sun to the streets of Rotterdam and we ask you: what is your relationship with the sun?

Solar Installations
Various times and locations

Urban Sun, Sunne Experience and The Circle are solar installations that appear during The Solar Biennale 2022 in different cities and at unexpected locations.

Solar Lectures
Various times, Pakhuis de Zwijger | Amsterdam

In a series of four lectures organised with Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam, we will dive into how solar design relates to the four key themes of the biennale: the Personal, Social, Spatial and Environmental. During this part of the programme, we’ll ask questions like: What emotions do solar designs bring about? How do we share solar energy in our communities? How might it change the way we build our cities? And what role does circularity play in the industry?

Solar Labs
Various times and locations

Two Solar Labs on knowledge and innovation in solar design will take place in September and October. The first one is dedicated to the Personal theme, in collaboration with New Order of Fashion and TU/e in Eindhoven; the second one focuses on the Spatial theme, in collaboration with BlueCity in Rotterdam.


You can buy tickets for the first event of the Solar Biennale here.

More information about the other programmes and participants will be added to their website in the coming weeks. You can also follow the Solar Biennale on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn to stay up to date with the latest news.

All images courtesy Solar Biennale. From top: Campaign images for the Solar Biennale by Studio Sander Plug. Solar Views (The Visitor), by Mirka Laura Severa. Ra, by Marjan van Aubel. Urban Sun, by Daan Roosegaarde.