The Energy Show at Het Nieuwe Instituut

The Energy Show explores the past and future of solar energy

An exhibition has opened at Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam showcasing the design possibilities offered by the sun. We explore it as part of our Solar Revolution series.

The Energy Show – Sun, Solar and Human Power offers a look at the role of the sun and solar power across history and explores how solar technology could enable a post-fossil-fuel future.

The Energy Show
The Energy Show asks visitors to imagine a world fuelled by solar energy

The exhibition aims to not only showcase innovative ways of harnessing solar power, but to encourage visitors to imagine a world primarily fuelled by solar energy.

Exhibits including a photovoltaic table and a wearable solar dress feature alongside playful artworks that highlight the ecological and social impact of solar energy.

Maria Telkes, Dover Sun House, 1948
A timeline features the world's first solar-powered home, built in 1948

The exhibition starts with a historical timeline, where highlights include construction of the first solar-powered home – the Dover Sun House designed by Maria Telkes – in 1948.

"I was thinking about the Prince song lyric, 'Welcome to the new power generation'," curator Matylda Krzykowski told Dezeen during a tour of the exhibition.

Animated sun at The Energy Show
An animated sun features at the entrance to and midway through the show

"In order to understand this new power generation, we have to understand where this obsession with the sun started," she said.

"I wanted to show how sun worship has shaped everything from architecture to theatre, as well showing pictures of these extreme inventions from the past."

The New Sun by Agnieszka Polska
The New Sun by Agnieszka Polska turns the sun into an emotive character

Among the most impactful works on show are The New Sun by Agnieszka Polska, a film that personifies the sun into a character that uses song, jokes and poetry to reflect on the state of the world.

Other highlights include Living with the Sun, a student project by Boudewijn Buitenhek that saw the designer live in a rented apartment without gas or electricity for week.

On Solarity: Eight Principles by Imre Szeman
On Solarity: Eight Principles considers a social and political framework for solar energy

The next part of the show features works that extend the conversation beyond the technological possibilities of solar energy.

Presented on disposable medicine packets, Imre Szeman's On Solarity: Eight Principles offers guidelines for managing the social and political possibilities of a solar economy.

Mirka Laura Severa, Solar Views (The Visitor), 2021
Mirka Laura Severa imagines a fictional artist whose work can only be viewed with sunglasses

Photographer Mirka Laura Severa presents images that tell the story of a fictional artist whose work can only be viewed with sunglasses.

There's also a film by Alice Wong and Crys Cool, which juxtaposes a vision of a solar future with images of the sun from film and television history, including the "sun baby" from Teletubbies.

Solar textiles by Pauline van Dongen
The show features several projects by Solar Biennale founders Marjan van Aubel and Pauline van Dongen

"It was important to me that the exhibition was narrative," said Krzykowski. "I wanted to do more than just show how designers, artists and architects have worked with the sun."

The show concludes with a library filled with solar-themed books and objects, plus a range of new solar proposals submitted by artists and designers.

Solar Energy Kiosk at Het Nieuwe Instituut
At the institute's entrance, the Solar Energy Kiosk is using solar power to make orange juice

The Energy Show forms part of the Solar Biennale, an initiative from solar designers Marjan van Aubel and Pauline van Dongen taking place from 9 September to 30 October in venues across Rotterdam.

The event was preluded by an installation at Milan design week called the Solar Energy Kiosk, which offered up orange juice made using solar energy. The Solar Energy Kiosk will be installed at the entrance to Het Nieuwe Instituut for the duration of The Energy Show.

The exhibition photography is by Aad Hoogendoorn.

The Energy Show is being exhibited at Het Nieuwe Instituut from 3 September 2022 to 5 March 2023. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.


Solar Revolution logo
Illustration by Berke Yazicioglu

Solar Revolution

This article is part of Dezeen's Solar Revolution series, which explores the varied and exciting possible uses of solar energy and how humans can fully harness the incredible power of the sun.

More images

The Energy Show at Het Nieuwe Instituut
The Energy Show
The Energy Show
The Energy Show
What would the world look like if it were solar powered? by Alice Wong and Crys Cool
The Energy Show at Het Nieuwe Instituut
The Energy Show
Solar Suitcase by We Care Solar
The Energy Show
The Energy Collection by Marjan van Aubel
The Energy Show
Current Table 2.0 by Marjan van Aubel and Peter Krige