Five questions for Daan Roosegaarde

Poetic cycle path

Nuenen has been enriched by a Van Gogh-Roosegaarde bicycle path. In the shimmering twilight visitors will be delighted by a design of light and colour, inspired by the work of Vincent van Gogh. Daan Roosegaarde and Heijmans have given the painting an ‘update’ and you can touch this one.

November 12, 2014

Van Gogh and a bicycle path: quite an usual combination?

Not to me. I have always created landscapes using art and technology, such as 'Dune' in the Maas Tunnel, dance floors that generate energy or smart highways in collaboration with Heijmans. Here in Nuenen we have taken an element from the past (Van Gogh in 1883) and an element from the future (energy-neutral landscapes) to create a landscape that is both functional and imaginative. It's about the connection: that is what brings it to life.

The design clearly refers to the painting 'The Starry Night'. Why this painting?

It is the most characteristic Van Gogh's painting. I wanted to use something that people are familiar with and give it a twist. Updating Van Gogh. This is how you get the first kilometre of art, though one which you can actually touch. I have just returned from Tokyo, as the Japanese minister of culture saw it online. He is so enthusiastic about it that he would like to commission something similar for the Olympic Games in 2020. And so it continues.

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What was the greatest challenge when designing the bicycle path?

To allow the organic nature of the pattern to survive, while everything was manufactured by machinery. The construction business often thinks in terms of kilometres, but the design world thinks in millimetres. This was subject to refinement. Since it is also a vulnerable area of flora and fauna, we had to create a softly glowing bicycle path, Bright lighting was out of the question. It is fantastic that the region of Brabant has given this type of daring project a chance.

So you conducted plenty of tests and made prototypes?

Yes, lots of one-on-one testing to determine the right swarf and sense of light. You can animate anything on a computer, but you only see the reality of it when you make prototypes. In the end, we had hundreds of metres of unique models cut by laser to ensure that the design was conveyed correctly. This lead to many consultations with the designers at Studio Roosegaarde and the professionals at Heijmans. The result speaks for itself.

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What are your expectations of the bicycle path now that it has finally been completed?

That it gives cyclists an amazingly poetic experience. That Van Gogh comes to life again. That it is a place where people arrange to meet on their first date.