The credit for this post goes to my son Robert who was the first to show me this amazing video. Since then, I’ve done a little research (what else!) because – well, because that’s what I do. The Dutch artist featured in this video is Theo Jansen,

who creates these amazing creatures which are considered kinetic sculpture. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so watch the video first and then I’ll give you a bit more info. This is actually from a South African BMW commercial – very clever of them to use this.

Jansen has been working on this project since 1990, each generation of “beests” becoming more complex and more self sustaining. He started making his creations with a computer program he designed to analyze the engineering of their walking but now builds them completely by trial and error. Eventually he would like to have a herd living on their own on the beaches of Holland.

In 2007 Jansen gave a talk at TED (Technology Entertainment Design), the “ideas worth spreading” conference held in California every year. You’ve probably heard of it because of the controversial speech Sarah Silverman gave this year. Despite this negative press, there have been some incredible presentations including Theo Jansen’s, which I’ve included because it contains much more information on the genesis and variety of the scultures than the BMW video above.

I think these “beests” are amazing in terms of both their beauty and their engineering. Incredible that they are made basically with just used lemonade bottles and plastic tubing, powered by the wind alone. They are truly poetry in motion.

6 thoughts on “Strandbeests

  1. I do not want to be silly, but is this the same amazing Jansen, as the furniture designer? The more we learn, the more we know we don’t know, so I’ve been following Jansen pieces on 1st dibs, and can’t get enough of him, but…oops, never caught his first name. Isn’t it marvelous in this world, though, that anyone would teach themselves to make giant robots. Let me know and thanks for your nice comments.
    All the Best,

    • Hi Liz – No the Jansen you speak of was Jean-Henri Jansen. He was actually Dutch also, but his firm, Maison Jansen, was French (and they eventually had a New York office). He died in 1928 but the firm continued until somewhere betwenn 1980 – 1990, decorating for everyone from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to the Shah of Iran. They also worked on the White House for Jackie Kennedy. Their furniture, as you probably now know from 1st Dibs is some of the most coveted in the world.

  2. His creations are some of the best examples of art and engineering morphed into one end result that I’ve ever seen. He points out that he sees no clear distinction between engineering and art, but the art would not have been possible in this case without the engineering the way I see it. I can’t help but think of Da Vinci’s concepts for flight, but Theo Jensen has actually built working prototypes, although not designed to fly. They are very beautiful in motion marching across the sand as you watch the synchronization of the members that serve as legs and the “wings” that harness the wind. I hope others will find this post.

    • Harrison – thank you so much for your perceptive comment. Aren’t these just incredible? I was so amazed when I first saw them – and obviously so was some forward thinking marketing person at BMW, who appreciated the brilliant synthesis of art and engineering. They are just beautiful and I think Da Vinci is a fitting comparison. I also hope more people discover Jansen here or elsewhere.

      • I agree with you about BMW, and I think people actually take notice when a large company sometimes uses a thought provoking marketing concept instead of the usual slick advertising.

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