Engineer the Future with Pissarro

La Rue Saint-Honoré 2050, Pissarro X Lovett

By Museum of Engineering Innovation

Boulevard Montmartre, Spring (1897) by Camille PissarroThe Israel Museum, Jerusalem

Artists in the 19th century captured on canvas the daily lives of people in rural and urban settings. These ‘old masters’ depict scenes that will be familiar, but they tell a story that belongs firmly in the past.  

The Oise near Pontoise in Grey Weather (1876) by Camille Jacob PissarroMuseum Boijmans Van Beuningen

The UK's goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is a massive undertaking. Decarbonisation on this timescale and of this magnitude will bring widespread changes to every aspect of daily life.

La rue Saint-Honoré (1898) by PissarroMuseum of Engineering Innovation

From how we build our houses and cities to how we travel around, our future daily lives will have been shaped by today’s engineers and engineering. 

If Pissarro was alive in 2050, what stories would spark his creativity? What could a net zero world look like in 2050 - a world that has been shaped by engineers and feats of engineering today to help us live a more sustainable life tomorrow?

La Net Zero Rue Saint-Honoré (2021) by LovettMuseum of Engineering Innovation

Pissarro famously captured the bustle of the streets of cities like Rouen and Paris. He said, “Perhaps it is not aesthetic, but I am delighted to be able to paint these Paris streets that people have come to call ugly [...] This is completely modern!”

This reimagined cityscape showcases engineering developments that could transform the cities of the future. A sympathetic recreation, it shows how cleaner, greener innovations, created by engineers, could transform everyday life and landscapes in the future.

Engineer the Future - Ashly Lovett Commentary (2021) by LovettMuseum of Engineering Innovation

In discussion with Ashly Lovett

Behind the scenes with the digital artist who reimagined Pissarro's La Rue Saint-Honoré

La Net Zero Rue Saint-Honoré (2021) by LovettMuseum of Engineering Innovation

A standout on the skyline, a central transport hub is imagined in the painting, providing access to electrically powered monorail, vertical taxis, and underground stations. 

To counter this, our skies in 2050 could be peppered with smaller planes and vertical taxis. A range of different convenient and sustainable options for travelling by air may be available.

Vertical taxis resembling flying drones could carry up to four people for long and short haul journeys. Made from materials that act like a battery, vertical drone-taxis may be lighter, doubling the distance they could travel today.  

Gracing the skyline to the left, the artist imagines rooftop farms with fruit trees laden with produce ready to sell to customers within picking distance below.  Growing food where people live reduces food miles and shortens supply routes.

This would reduce the fuel and energy needed to transport food from farm to fork.  Rooftop gardens meanwhile could filter pollutants from the atmosphere, creating cleaner air for city dwellers to breathe.

These roof gardens could also keep flat roofs cool in summer and provide insulation in winter. Plants absorb the sun’s energy and so reduce the temperature of the roof when warm, and lock in heat when it is cold. They require little maintenance and  reduce energy bills significantly, and could be a beautiful, space-saving and a sustainable addition to our cities. 

As cities become more crowded and dependent on apartment living, fewer of us may have access to garden space. Vertical gardens provide a creative solution to this. 

Professor Chris Wise RDI FREng, Founder Partner of Expedition, says: “If Pissarro were to travel to Paris in 2050, he might find buildings that have been designed to take full advantage of their environment.  No side of a building would look the same: the south facing side is shaded and both east and west facades have screens to capture the morning and evening sun. 

Alongside the road, a yellow cycle lane and generous pavements suggest that more city dwellers may switch to walking and cycling for shorter journeys, lowering emissions and reducing noise pollution.  

Professor Chris Wise says, "  Pissarro, who suffered from an eye-infection and eventually went blind, would find getting round the city easier with colour coded areas and rumble strips, as well as a monorail system that dispenses with the need for a car."

Our current road layout, which is based on transporting hay, may need to change to accommodate multiple forms of public transport while also improving accessibility.

On the road itself, a variety of driverless, electric cars have been painted into the picture, fitted with solar panels on roofs that power their journeys with renewable energy.  

The painting also imagines that our reliance on hard landscaping may reduce, and concrete pavements could be replaced with permeable materials such as grass to help cities cope with increased rainfall and flood risks.

Organic surfaces may work to trap pollutants from the stormwater, with bacteria and microbes breaking down these chemicals biologically. 

This cityscape highlights the sort of engineering feats that may play a role in helping the UK reach its goal of net zero by 2050.  

This artwork was reimagined by artist Ashly Lovett, based on Pissarro's 1898 La Rue Saint-Honoré.

La rue Saint-Honoré (1898) by PissarroMuseum of Engineering Innovation

Reimagined La Rue Saint-Honoré labelled (2021) by PissarroMuseum of Engineering Innovation

Self-Portrait (Camille Pissarro, par lui-meme) (c. 1890) by Camille PissarroNational Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Camille Pissarro was a Danish-French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painter born on the island of St Thomas. 

Self-Portrait (Camille Pissarro, par lui-meme) (c. 1890) by Camille PissarroNational Gallery of Art, Washington DC

At the end of his life Pissarro had to move to the city on account of his failing eyesight. It was then that he began to paint sitting at a window and captured the changing activity of the streets of Paris. Pissarro, the relentless observer, immortalised life in the modern city.

Ashly Lovett Headshot by Ashly LovettMuseum of Engineering Innovation

Known for her captivatingly ethereal artwork in chalk pastel, Ashly Lovett is a freelance illustrator, writer and gallery artist. Inspired by folklore and mythology, she hopes to bewitch her viewers with a deep sense of wonder. 

Ashly Lovett Headshot by Ashly LovettMuseum of Engineering Innovation

She has done licensed work for Jim Henson Company, Adult Swim, Netflix, SEGA, and more. She received her BA in Illustration from Ringling College of Art and Design and has exhibited in galleries from California to New York. She lives in Louisiana, USA with her  husband Matthew, son Leon, and fat cat Skeletor (a.k.a. Skelly.)

TIEDay masterpieces - Pissarro timelapseMuseum of Engineering Innovation

Behind the scenes of the digital reimagining

View the other exhibits in the reimagined series:

Engineer the Future with Constable

Engineer the Future with Monet

Engineer the Future with Van Gogh

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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