Keynote Panel Daan Roosegaarde, Bert van der Els, Wim Pijbes


Small town visionaries discuss their ideals for museums and their ideal museums


Daan Roosegaarde: “Be the happy infiltrator of the system.”


An infiltrator of the system

As a child I used to live in a typical Dutch, concrete house. I very much enjoyed nature and the world I lived in felt a bit static to me. At school I looked for advice on what to study. I took some tests and it turned out that what I wanted ‘did not exist’. People asked me: why don’t you go do something that gets you a real job? I felt like an infiltrator of the system. This process made me realize that I want to make things. I’m not a consumer, I’m a maker. I want to make, hack and upgrade.

I now work in an innovative district, in an old factory that I made into dream factory. Here people test, make mistakes and upgrade. Making is like having a taste in your mouth, but you don’t know the ingredients yet.

Fireflies emit light without a maintenance contract

Various examples show that old systems don’t work anymore; we are forced to be creative again. We are all made of stardust. I ask myself: how does a firefly continue give light without a maintenance contract? This type of thinking was the basis for the lit bicycle path that now runs through the area where Van Gogh used to live. It is based on his painting Starry Nights and is made of naturally light emitting material. I like to design the missing link. It’s not always easy, but by doing and by showing it’s possible, you make other people’s brains to open up.

Questioning the status quo

A light emitting bicycle path is normal once it pops up in world of imagination and is created in the real world. I like to question the status quo. For example: why do we accept smog? My team and I developed a machine that filters air. However, it doesn’t stop there. In my opinion, waste should not exist. Therefore the carbon collected in the filtering process is used. We now design diamond like smog free jewellery pieces out of approximately every 1000 m3 filtered air. In another project I used lighting in a public space to show how high the water level would be if would stop being creative. It showed how powerful we are, but also how fragile we are. This raised a lot of discussion. People passing by started looking and had a collective experience. There’s a whole new world to be explored.



Bert van der Els: “You need a lot of people to get the best out of everybody”.

CEO of Heijmans

Collaboration as a main building block Heijmans is one of the largest construction companies in the Netherlands. It is a technology driven cooperation that thrives on collaboration: “You need a lot of people to get the best out of everybody”.

We combine design, engineering and construction. We also worked on the Dutch Military Museum which was to display 250.000 artefacts; from large airplanes to super small objects. We collaborated with a lot of different people, with different expertise to make the exhibition possible.

Spanning an Amsterdam canal with a 3D printed bridge

In another project, we develop tiny houses – suitable for one person – which can be build and removed in one day. Furthermore, we’re planning on print a bridge for one of the Amsterdam canals in the upcoming 6-12 months. In this process we learn about new technology. It seems that we now can actually print constructions that are so strong that they can form fully functioning bridges!

Interdisciplinary is key

All in all, we work on the world of tomorrow. We will need people who want to collaborate with different disciplines; young students need to be able to talk to a lot of people and to integrate different disciplines. We therefore also have programmes in which we work with students from all kinds of backgrounds


Wim Pijbes: “You! Stop running; that painting is looking at you!”

Director of the Rijksmuseum


The most important painting in the whole wide world

At the age of 12 I visited the Rijksmuseum on a day trip with school. I remember running through the hallways and a guard halting me. He said: “You! Stop running; that painting is looking at you!” I was hooked. Later in the tour, in front of The Nightwatch my teacher told me and my class mates: “Listen vey carefully now: This is the most important painting in the whole wide world.” At that age, I completely believed it. Real art has the ability to move people.


Encounter the ugly and feed your brain!

Creativity follows imagination. Therefore you have to encounter the old and new, the unfamiliair, the ugly and beautiful:you need input to feed your brain. Museums should be open, accessible to everybody and form the gateways to creativity. Only then you can make it relevant for a new audience.


Embrace children’s openness to their environment

We classified our rooms by the time they were made. We intent to show the influence of environment. Children are still very open to their environments. We need to foster this. Picasso said: “As a child I could draw like Michelangelo. It took me a lifetime to draw like a child, however”. In our drawing school we ask participants to draw a lemon. Twenty people draw twenty different lemons. We have drawled their attention, however. If we encourage kids to use their creativity, we are succeeding.


Discussion lead by Gail Lord

Q (Gail Lord): Some say the glass is half full, others say it’s half empty. Engineers ask for the specifications. Can you talk about your ideal museum experience, in order for children to make the imaginable possible?

A (Daan Roosegaarde): My ideal museum focuses on the future and triggers curiosity. Being able to explore, discover; not as an observer but as a participant. Having notion of a desire for beauty. I can create stuff; I’m in need of a laboratory. Museums could be more connected to the future, regardless of what they display (of poetry, health, whatever).

A (Wim Pijbes): The object is key, but the visitor too. DIY, the possibility to create something or engage with it yourself is of great importance.  Those are the key success factors for today’s society.

A (Bert van der Els): Inspiration can come from so many things. I remember visiting the MoMa and the Metropolitan. They displayed a huge large walls with holes. You had to stick your nose through the walls and smell the smells on display. Ofcourse, as an engineer I asked: what are the specifications?


Q (Gail Lord): Kids are more and more growing up in cities. What do you think helps them to develop resilience?

A (Daan Roosegaarde): There are three ungrateful phases of innovation. 1) The moment of presenting a new idea. People have a weird tendency to immediately tell you it can’t be done. Therefore you start prototyping. Hereafter, struggle 2) People tell you your innovation is not allowed. You have to work around the rules. And then number 3) People say “ I could have done it; why did you not make this before”. You have to embrace and enjoy these phases. They tell you you’re working on innovation.


Q (from the audience): I feel like collection based museums experience difficulty pointing outwards. Their effect is like a trampoline instead of diving board; you want people to focus on the artwork but you also want to connect with real world problems. How do you feel about this?

A (Wim Pijbes): Well, just do it; thell the object’s story and make them relevant; every object has a story. Cupboards are usually closed. We allow people to look further and take a look behind the scenes. Moreover, we like to look for links with contemporary events in society. For example, we open up all the closets during gay parade.

A (Daan Roosegaarde): I like to look for the relation between history and the future: the suspense we experience when we look at the stars.


Q (from the audience): Museums are not super creative in general, maybe because they’re  not allowed, like phase two of innovation. What can people do or say as a reaction to your ‘that’s not allowed’ to be innovative anyway?

A (Wim Pijbes): I rarely have reasons to reject our employees’ ideas. Normally I say: if you have a good point, if you have a sound plan money wise and there is an audience for it and it is suitable for the Rijksmuseums: go for it.

R Reaction from audience: Maybe we need institutional change; maybe museum employees should become artists?


Q (from the audience): The new learning paradigm lead to an explosion of freelancers. How do you feel this helps the museum industry?

A (Bert van der Els): 50 years ago people started their jobs and they expected to be doing the same thing today. If people join our company, we tell them to be aware that the job they’ll be doing will not be there in 5 yrs. If you work in our company for 20 years, you will be doing 4 to 5 kind of jobs over the years. It’s like Uber for companies.

A (Wim Pijbes):  In our museum setting its sometimes quite different: We have very, very specialized people working here. For example, it takes years and years to become a 17-century porcelain specialist.