Visionary projects for an energy-sustainable future at the Vitra Design Museum


Visionary projects for an energy-sustainable future at the Vitra Design Museum

At the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, the exhibition ‘Transform! Designing the Future of Energy’ presents the contribution of design to the transition toward a future society relying completely on renewable energy sources.
The exhibition addresses three big questions: What are the criteria for designing a highly energy-efficient product? Can planning contribute to an increase in the use of renewable energy sources? How can industry, politics, and individual choices help achieve the transition towards a sustainable future?

Above: Marjan van Aubel, Sunne, solar-powered lamp, 2022 © Marjan van Aubel Studio – courtesy of Vitra Design Museum

Divided into thematic sections, the exhibition starts by inviting visitors to discover their own ‘energy potential’; by pedaling on some exercise bikes, visitors will discover how much time is needed to produce enough electrical energy to carry out everyday activities – such as preparing a coffee, surfing the web or taking a hot shower. The ‘energy tools’ section presents products, prototypes, and experiments for an ‘off-grid’ life, i.e. disconnected from conventional energy networks. Among the objects on display are the ‘Solar shirt’ with integrated photovoltaic panels by Pauline van Doren, the ‘Papilio’ street lamp powered by a built-in wind rotor designed by Tobias Trübenbacher, and the ‘Sunne’ solar-powered pendulum lamp, by Marjan van Aubel, which simulates the quality of natural sunlight.
Among the most interesting experiments on display is the ‘Available Networks’ project by Pablo Bras which explores the possibility of capturing incidental flows of energy in and around the house – from the wind blowing on the roof to the flow of rainwater in the rainwater systems – and use them to produce small amounts of energy, then examining what it would mean to live using only these types of energy sources.


Pauline van Dongen, Solar Shirt, 2015
© Pauline van Dongen, Photo: Liselotte Fleur.
courtesy of Vitra Design Museum

Titled ‘Transformers’, the third part of the exhibition brings together projects for sustainable architecture and projects for mobility; the relevance of this section is great since the construction sector alone is responsible for around a third of global energy consumption, and the consumption of the transport sector is almost as high. Among the architectural projects on display we find the Brattørkaia office building in Trondheim, Norway; designed by Snøhetta, the power plant is recognized as the world’s northernmost energy-positive building, given that it produces more than double the energy that it consumes, reinjecting the surplus into a local microgrid. Also interesting is the ‘Day After House’ by TAKK architecture, which demonstrates that high-tech solutions are not the only way to improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings: thanks to an intelligent spatial configuration, differentiated climate zones, and the use of naturally sourced insulating materials, this renovated apartment requires almost no artificial heating.

The section dedicated to transport presents experimental solar-powered cars, such as the Covestro Sonnenwagen car which can cover a distance of up to 500 kilometers / 310 miles with approximately 2.5 sqm / 27 sqft of photovoltaic cells, but also manufacturers, such as the German startup Sono Motors, which are now integrating photovoltaics into production vehicles. Finally, to achieve greater sustainability in an energy-intensive sector such as home deliveries, ONOMOTION has invested in vehicles that combine electric motors and muscle power.

‘Transform! Designing the Future of Energy’ tells us that focusing on renewable energy sources is not enough, we also need to carefully design everyday objects, devise great urban projects, and build visionary infrastructures to achieve sustainable development.


TAKK, The Day After House, 2021
© José Hevia – courtesy of Vitra Design Museum


Team Sonnenwagen Aachen, Covestro solar car, 2019
© Sonnenwagen Aachen e.V. – courtesy of Vitra Design Museum


Janine Graubaum ONOMOTION GmbH, E-Cargobike ONO
© Janine Graubaum
courtesy of Vitra Design Museum

Transform! Designing the Future of Energy
March 23, 2024 / September 1, 2024
Vitra Design Museum
Charles-Eames-Straße 2, 79576 Weil am Rhein, Germany

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