Engineer the Future with Monet

The Seashore at Sainte-Adresse 2050, Monet X Lovett

By Museum of Engineering Innovation

La Pointe de la Hève, Sainte-Adresse (1864) by Claude MonetThe National Gallery, London

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 Gare St-Lazare (1877) by Claude MonetThe National Gallery, London

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.

The Seashore at Sainte-Adresse (1864) by MonetMuseum of Engineering Innovation

From how we travel around to how we heat and light our homes, our future daily lives will have been shaped by today’s engineers and engineering. 

If Monet was alive in 2050, what stories would spark his creativity? What might a net zero world look like in 2050 - a world that where engineers and feats of engineering are helping us to live more sustainable lives?

The Net Zero Seashore at Sainte-Adresse (2021) by MonetMuseum of Engineering Innovation

Monet depicted a seashore scene with sailboats and fishermen heading out on a grey day. Eroding coasts, overfishing, plastic pollution in the ocean, and emissions from marine transport have changed the views of Monet’s beaches. 

This reimagined seascape highlights the sort of engineering feats of the future that might be needed to help the UK reach its goal of net zero by 2050.  

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 Monet's The Seashore at Sainte-Adresse

The Net Zero Seashore at Sainte-Adresse (2021) by MonetMuseum of Engineering Innovation

This sympathetic recreation shows how cleaner, greener innovations, created by engineers, could transform everyday life and landscapes in the future.

In the foreground of the painting, the artist imagines that we might see beach cleaning robots that mechanically sift through the sand to collect and remove plastic waste and debris. 

Requiring artificial intelligence to tell the difference between seaweed and rubbish, wheels that can work on sandy and pebbled surfaces, and of course a waterproof shell, smart seashore robots could be part of a mix of engineering innovations that help to look after our planet in 2050.

And to stop more plastic entering our ecosystems, engineers are re-inventing plastic altogether. From seaweed, algae and fish scales, to potato peelings, mushrooms and palm leaves, new biodegradable and even edible materials are being engineered from natural ingredients to reduce our reliance on single-use plastic.

Looking out to sea, the boats of the future could use clean hydrogen and sails that store solar energy to power them through the water or to provide light, heat and energy for the ship’s occupants. New ship designs might include a combination of hard sails, rotating cylinders, kites and bubbles underneath the hull.

To cut emissions, ships could be designed more efficiently, be fitted with technologies to harness wind, go a bit slower to conserve fuel, or simply transport less. But ultimately, if shipping is going to fully decarbonise it needs to find a replacement  for fossil fuels.

Out to sea, offshore factories are imagined creating renewable energy; this might be through wind turbines or tidal power, or even the production of clean hydrogen, which could be used to re-fuel fishing boats mid-trip.  

Built like a space station, these offshore ocean refuelling stations would save ships from coming into port and polluting the air around the land.  Ships would be able to dock onto the hub and refuel at these facilities, which are maintained by autonomous boats and devices monitored onshore by humans.

If you look closely at the horizon, you can see an offshore windfarm, helping to generate renewable energy alongside a floating wind turbine tethered and hovering above the beach. 

Operating at much higher altitudes than a standard wind turbine, the floating wind turbines could maximise efficiency and making optimal use of wind speed. 

Up on the bank in the far left of the painting the artist has imagined how building design will have changed to make homes more climate change resistant. 

Buildings may become directional, able to transform their exteriors to cope with changing conditions. These chameleon buildings could have a 'skin' that is responsive to sunlight and shade for temperature regulation. 

Smart windows could cool down buildings and power-up our appliances. Engineers are already inventing self-powered electrochromic film that is able to control the visible light entering through glazing while, at the same time, blocking infra-red energy and  heat to cool the interior of a building.

For example, engineers at Cranfield University are working on smart self-powered windows. These will make an impact in regions with high solar irradiance, such as the Indian subcontinent, by managing indoor lighting and temperature to improve the welfare of local communities.

At the very bottom of the painting, a seagrass plantation is imagined to grow abundantly, serving to capture carbon and improve the coastal ecosystem for native wildlife.  

Professor Susan Gourvenec, RAEng Chair in Emerging Technologies for Intelligent & Resilient Ocean Engineering at the University of Southampton, says: “If Monet was to paint The Seashore at Sainte-Adresse in 2050, seagrass plantations might be visible, which would not only capture carbon but also provide coastal protection and improve the coastal ecosystem and habitat for wildlife.”  

Seagrass captures carbon up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests and, even though it only covers 0.2% of the seafloor, it absorbs 10% of the ocean's carbon each year, making it an incredible tool in the fight against climate change. 

It is also an important nursery for endangered wildlife such as seahorses, as well as many of the fish we eat, including cod, plaice and pollock. 

This seascape highlights the sort of engineering feats of the future 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 Monet’s 1864 The Seashore at Sainte-Adresse.

The Seashore at Sainte-Adresse (1864) by MonetMuseum of Engineering Innovation

Reimagined Seashore at Sainte-Adresse labelled (2021) by MonetMuseum of Engineering Innovation

The Water-Lily Pond (1899) by Claude MonetThe National Gallery, London

Oscar-Claude Monet was a French painter and founder of impressionist painting whose work is seen as a precursor of modernism, especially in his attempts to paint nature as he perceived it.

Cliff Walk at Pourville (1882) by Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926)The Art Institute of Chicago

In Normandy, Monet absorbed its picturesque coastal sites, villages, and vantage points. The region changed dramatically over the course of the nineteenth century, due in large part to the expanded rail network. 

The Gare St-Lazare (1877) by Claude MonetThe National Gallery, London

We are undergoing another period of rapid change as we work towards our net zero goal. This artwork is one in a series to capture the some of the engineering feats that might be part of our lives in the future in our effort to reach net zero by 2050.  

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 - Monet timelapse (2021) by Ashly LovettMuseum of Engineering Innovation

Watch behind the scenes of how this digital reimagining was created

View the other exhibits in the reimagined series:

Engineer the Future with Constable

Engineer the Future with Pissarro

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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