Movie: swap streetlights with luminous trees - Daan Roosegaarde

I’m not sure I’m on board with this (it just innately looks and feels unnatural to me), but I dare say it isn’t thinking outside the box. Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde is exploring ways of using the bio-luminescent qualities of jellyfish and mushrooms to create glow-in-the-dark trees that could replace street lights. It’s innovative to be sure, but is it environmentally sound? What happens exactly when trees start to glow, aside from the obvious light they produce.

The designer posits, “When a jellyfish is deep, deep underwater it creates its own light,” he says. “It does not have a battery or a solar panel or an energy bill. It does it completely autonomously. What can we learn from that?” Roosegaarde’s interest in biomimicry led him to collaborate with the State University of New York  and Alexander Krichevsky, whose technology firm Bioglow unveiled genetically modified glow-in-the-dark plants earlier this year.

Krichevsky creates the glowing plants by splicing DNA from luminescent marine bacteria to the chloroplast genome of a common houseplant, so the stem and leaves emit a faint light similar to that produced by fireflies and jellyfish. “I mean, come on, it will be incredibly fascinating to have these energy-neutral but at the same time incredibly poetic landscapes,” he goes on.

Roosegaarde is now working on a proposal to use a collection of these plants for a large-scale installation designed to look like a light-emitting tree. Strict regulations around the use of genetically modified plants within the EU mean that Roosegaarde cannot use this material in his Netherlands studio. He had to travel to the US to receive the plant. Many argue there’s a reason for the ban on GMO.

Movie: swap streetlights with luminous trees – Daan Roosegaarde.