Idea Gridspectives

On a train returning from an RGI storage workshop in Montreux about two years ago, we were enjoying the beautiful scenery of Lake Geneva and the surrounding mountains. The power grid was – and still is – our business, so we paid special attention to the lines criss-crossing the landscape. We started to discuss  “Why do grids have to look the way they look? Who cares about the visual impact of grid infrastructure? Who decides about beauty?” This lively conversation on the train from Montreux to Geneva in January 2011 gave birth to the idea of the GRID EXPO.

You can’t really compare the Swiss Alps to Lower Saxony. But driving our set of four design pylons from Berlin to CeBIT in Hannover for the first GRID EXPO, we couldn’t help feeling a sense of déjà vu as we passed by the power lines on the autobahn. Still, this time was different – because now our discussion about the aesthetics of the grid had become something much bigger.

To become proud of our power system we need to go beyond technology and understand the relationship between ourselves and the infrastructure that supports our lifestyles.

Over the past two years, we have connected with designers, architects, philosophers, psychologists, media experts and cultural pioneers all across Europe and beyond. We have begun to understand that the visual impact of grid infrastructure is an important element of how we, the people, relate to the landscape – and our understanding of the future. On the way to CeBIT we were ready to go public. Ready to start a discussion about the aesthetics of our power system that goes beyond our network of experts.  What does the “Energiewende”, the energy transformation, look like? And how do I  feel about it? What is my role in understanding and “shaping the future”? Beyond technology and politics, in this discussion about aesthetics, beauty and personal preference, finally we discovered the human dimension of the grid.

The 1st GRID EXPO at CeBIT proved this is a discussion that people want to join. The four design pylons kindly provided by Terna and Bystrup Architects (thank you so much!) attracted lots of attention. From gadget nerds to the German environment minister Peter Altmaier and chancellor Angela Merkel, visitors were pleasantly surprised – and showed a strong appetite for thinking and talking about the aesthetics of power grids. We have produced a very short film to give you a sense of the inspiring atmosphere:

We will continue the conversation with non-energy experts from the media, social sciences and the arts our upcoming GRIDSPECTIVES Dialogue Forum. If you like to participate, please sign up for our newsletter.