Theo Jansen’s Stunning Strandbeests

How on earth have I lived in ignorance of the existence of Theo Jansen’s kinetic “beach animals” until now? Heart-achingly beautiful:

From Wired News:

“Jansen is evolving an entirely new line of animals: immense multi-legged walking critters designed to roam the Dutch coastline, feeding on gusts of wind. Over the years, successive generations of his creatures have evolved into increasingly complex animals that walk by flapping wings in response to the wind, discerning obstacles in their path through feelers and even hammering themselves into the sand on sensing an approaching storm.”

Four names immediately spring to mind: Leonardo DaVinci, Mark Pauline, Hayao Miyazaki, and Lee Bontecou. Theo Jansen, the father of Animaris Percipiere and Animaris Rhinocerous, has just joined those venerable souls on my shortlist of creators who deserve to have glorious temples and shrines, even cities, built in their honor.

Big love to Justin for the elucidation. More images and comprehensive article links under the cut.

All images from

17 Responses to “Theo Jansen’s Stunning Strandbeests”

  1. Damien Says:

    Wow. Just…. Simply completely amazing.

  2. joshua Says:

    while he isn’t as preternaturally beautiful as say, jonathan rhys myers – the stuff is amazing.

    thanks as always, for the brain stretching, enlightening posts.

    yr keeping me thoroughly entertained, and making me more interesting and slightly smarter than most of my friends now…

  3. Fritz Bogott Says:

    Yes, the air in the Netherlands seems to be really good for designers. I also really like Dre Wapenaar’s tents.

  4. Ben Morris Says:

    Somewhat speechless. Can’t really put into words how incredible these are.

    I love kinetic sculpture, it just has so many possibilities. The work of Tim Hawkinson is really cool too. His uberorgan for example is a giant organ built largely out of inflatable materials, being played by optical sensors scanning giant clear plastic equivalents of a player piano’s piano rolls.

    Jansen’s use of wind power reminds me of Nikola Bašić’s Sea Organ (I apparently have organs on the brain today) in Zadar, Croatia; as the waves come in they power and play a pipe organ built into the steps.

  5. Jerem Morrow Says:

    Heh, considered sending this to you guys, but figured ye HAD to’ve known about it. Magnificent, ja.

  6. Mer Says:

    Daawww. Thanks, Joshua. Consider it payback for Roadside Picnic.

    Ben, quit stealing my brain! ;) I love Hawkinson’s stuff. The Uberorgan paid a visit to NYC a few years back. I took the subway to midtown many, many times just to drink coffee and bask in its blarping, farting, Gilliam-esque glory. Do your ducts seem old fashioned? Out of date? Here, check out my photo set.

    Oddmusic is such a great site… I actually stumbled across Nikola Basic there while researching the Luray Caverns Pipe Organ for CH a while back. The Sea Organ makes surprisingly versatile and lovely music!

  7. Ben Morris Says:

    I first saw Hawkinson’s work when a friend showed a segment on him on a PBS Art 21 DVD, I love how he incorporates music into his work. In the DVD the Uberorgan is at MASS MoCA and in the youtube video its at the Getty, but I think I like it better as depicted in your photos, interspersed between the trees, the contrast between the built and the grown.

    Also I hadn’t run across before, thats a really cool site.

  8. Paul Komoda Says:

    It’s morning here in Philly and I still haven’t gotten over seeing those unbelievable images for the first time last night.
    Jansen’s indeed, a genius, which is not a term I use facetiously.
    Thank you, Mer, for introducing his magnificent creations to me!

  9. D Says:

    Bus-sized biomorphic balloons. I’ll need a somewhat bigger place to fit it into the living room. A small one of the Jansen sculptures could work…I’ll just tear down a wall, let the wind in and watch it walk.

  10. el Says:

    Astonishing; mer, you can trust that whatever gratitude you feel for whoever introduced you to this work is now being projected toward you from many directions.
    ben, i just watched that episode of art 21 last week, and hawkinson’s section was really a showstopper, and it’s even more impressive considering he’s had no training in engineering or programming.
    this might be of interest..

  11. Patricia Chauncey Says:

    These creatures have crawled out of that place called “Wonder”.
    We all knew they lived “somewhere”…
    How very beautiful.

  12. Tanya Says:

    Wow, absolutely beautiful! I would like to fly in one of those.

  13. Lauren Says:

    I feel so lucky to live in a world where stuff like this exists.

  14. Mer Says:

    El! Wow, thanks for posting the “playing the building” stuff. What a fantastic concept. Really eerie. I just wish there was more/better documentation. Binaural mic technology being what it is now, I bet they could have gotten some incredible footage.

    David Byrne is such a thoughtful and iconoclastic artist. An example of someone who has continued to grow and evolve over several decades, instead of just coasting along with the same old shtick. I always loved stumbling across his “street signs” in NYC.

  15. Dysphem Says:

    This guy’s work suggests that we have yet to discover some of the more interesting applications of tools and machines that directly harness our planet’s own abundant natural energy. His creations are truly amazing to watch, however, and are obviously brilliantly designed. A two-ton monstrosity that can be started with a single push? I’d almost have to see it to believe it. I wonder if he’s figured out how to make one that can maneuver itself?

  16. el Says:

    mer, i couldn’t agree more with your thoughts on david byrne. From the quality of his work to the scope of types of media he has worked with, he is a perpetually inspirational and mind opening force in my life.
    for a bit more information about the building installation, here is one of byrne’s journal entries about it..

  17. Beach creatures « Why Evolution Is True Says:

    […] Jansen is a Dutch artist who makes wind-powered kinetic sculptures called “Strandbeests” (“Beach creatures,” if Dutch is like German).  They’re truly amazing, and […]