WMMNA: An Imaginary Airship Comes To Life

WMMNA: An Imaginary Airship Comes To Life

Lieven Standaert, creates a zero-emission transparent craft that's meant to fly for as long as possible off its own renewable energy.

Adrian Lai
  • 28 july 2011

This week, i’m having a chat with Lieven Standaert, the designer behind Aeromodeller2, a work as poetical as it is ambitious and thought-provoking.

The project explores the possibility to build a 90-meter, zero-emission, airship that will never need to land to get its fuel, creating hydrogen from the elements it encounters and briefly anchoring when it needs to replenish its energy in a renewable way. Aeromodeller2 might not be the most efficient nor the fastest airship but it certainly leaves more space to imagination, dream and aspiration than anything Boeing or NASA can come up with.

A thousand airbuses jumping back and forth over the ocean twenty-four-seven. Fly, land, replace crew and passengers and take off again.
A thousand machines using up their fuel reserves in a mad, insomniac frenzy.
Until they run out…

One thousand hyperactive passenger jets, and one airship that needs to rest when its energy level is low.
Just like everything else wandering around on this planet.

The most surprising part of the project is that Lieven, just like its airship, works at his own pace. It might take him one year, ten or even more to complete his project. That’s not really the point for him. What matters is the experimental process, the constant testings, the unhurried journey made of improvements, adjustments and exploration.

The text that describes Aeromodeller2 explains that “The project was born as a manifesto for a designer-driven innovation, as opposed to one driven by a marketing department.” What are the advantages of a designer-driven over a marketing-led approach?

The school where I studied industrial design was at that time very much pushing its students towards industry. If you wanted to design a good backpack, you did focus group studies and market research and asked the people what they wanted. 
This is a perfectly valid thing to do, and a fittingly humble approach to design. I never liked it. My background was in architecture. My heroes were, and still are, people like Le Corbusier and Buckminster. I like the arrogant, aristocratic designers who say: “I’ve studied this problem. This is the right solution and we should build this.”

There are fields, like ergonomics, where user feedback is invaluable, but if you’re asking a hundred people if solar panels are better than wind power, it is an illusion to think the average answer will be better than that of one expert who studied the issue. If you base your designs on the amount of people that will buy it and their opinions, you will always follow. I value visionary designers who lead. 
Designers who say: “I’m not making what you want, I’m making what you need. Take it”.

Continue reading here.


Régine Debatty is the creator of “We Make Money Not Art” blog and an art show curator. She has also spoken at several conferences and festivals about the way artists, hackers and interaction designers (mis)use technology. Learn more about Régine Debatty.


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