Thank you for the Sun, an icon of the fossil fuel era

What new function could be given to the filling station - an icon of the fossil fuel era - in post-fossil fuel society? ‘Thank you for the Sun’, the installation submitted for Dutch Design Week (DDW) 2018 by designers Esther Jongsma & Sam van Gurp (VANTOT), Sander Wassink and Job van den Berg was aimed around that question.

During DDW, a rather out-of-the-ordinary filling station was built in the middle of Eindhoven's central market square, a place where people normally meet up, enjoy a drink or meal and have fun. This installation encouraged people to think about what would happen if all our conventional energy systems had to be redesigned. According to Martijn Paulen, director of Dutch Design Foundation (DDF), the market square was an obvious choice as the location for this exhibit: “Targeting the city centre meant that you could catch the attention of people who had not come specifically for the DDW exhibition. This was an opportunity to reach a wider audience and present a broader picture of what design is and can be. So, it was the perfect place to show that design is more than just making things look pretty - a widely held misconception among members of the general public who are not so familiar with this discipline.” A light and heat installation, a heap of sand, beach chairs and parasols turned the ‘repurposed’ filling station into a place where visitors and casual passers-by could recharge their batteries and enjoy some ‘sun’ in the cold autumn weather without having to fly to distant destinations. So Thank you for the Sun helped people think positively about the energy challenges of the future, which normally elicit gloom and doom.

The making of Thank you for the Sun
Britt Roelse
The inspiration for the theme

Edwin Schenk, CBO of DDF: “We set up this extensive project together with important partners and talented local designers in the run-up to DDW.” - Thank You for the Sun ultimately became a project that was created collaboratively by designers Esther Jongsma & Sam van Gurp (VANTOT), Sander Wassink and Job van den Berg and funded by DDF & Companies Investment zone (BIZ). The parties jointly decided on energy consumption as the theme to highlight the decision to switch to 100% electrically powered Renault ZOE Design Rides as the means of transport for visitors - a first in the history of DDW. Designers Esther, Sam, Sander and Job eagerly accepted this opportunity. The platform they created together presents this global issue in a totally unique way.”

Esther Jongsma & Sam van Gurp during the making of Thank you for The Sun
Britt Roelse

‘Thank you for the Sun’ is intended to encourage people to think of their own scenarios for the future of energy production and energy consumption rather than presenting a cut-and-dried ‘establishment’ answer.

A perfecty balanced (temporary) collective

“The temporary design collective was a perfect balance between good designers, good storytellers, and good installation builders. In addition, VANTOT had explored thin film solar panels (Solliance) and energy consumption previously as themes. So, this seemed to be an obvious choice”, Paulen explains. The members of the temporary collective each have their own view on the energy issue. “This installation does not strive to present a single answer”, says Esther Jongsma. “Like us, the members of the public all have their own ideas about this theme. Thank you for the Sun is intended to encourage people to think of their own scenarios for the future of energy production and energy consumption rather than presenting a cut-and-dried ‘establishment’ answer. You could almost think of the installation as a temple where we worship the sun in thanks for its energy and where people can contemplate their relationship with the sun”.

Job van den Berg during the making of Thank you for the Sun
Britt Roelse
The Souvenir Shop

Every filling station has a souvenir shop, and Thank you for the Sun was no different. Of course, the souvenirs all reflected issues associated with our future energy consumption in some way. For example, postcards depicting ‘Eindhoven at Sea’ were distributed at the DDW exhibition. A possible future scenario in which Eindhoven will be below sea level (NAP) following the consequences of climate change. Another idea, which was discarded, was a petrol-scented perfume to remind us of the nostalgic odour of the fossil-fuel filling stations of old when we all switch to electric vehicles.

Thank you for the Sun tijdens DDW18
Tommy Köhlbrugge