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An Iconic Dutch Dam Is Getting Decked Out in Interactive Light Art

A series of temporary and permanent installations by Daan Roosegaarde will light up the Afsluitdijk in the Netherlands.

by Kevin Holmes
Sep 6 2016, 12:50pm

Waterlicht - Icoon Afsluitdijk. Image: Studio Roosegaarde.

The Afsluitdijk in the Netherlands is a 20-mile-long dike that runs from the village of Den Oever in North Holland to the village of Zurich in Friesland, and helps protect the coastline from flooding. Built in the early 20th century, it was handmade brick by brick and has become an icon of Dutch design. But now, over 80 years since it was created, it is getting a makeover, of sorts, to "strenghthen the beauty of the dam."

Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde, of Smog Free Tower and glow-in-the-dark roadway fame, along with the Dutch government and local regions, has a plan to augment the dam with subtle interactions and innovative lighting. The project, called Icoon Afsluitdijk,features various temporary and permanent pieces. Part of the permanent works will include a project called Gates of Light. This will see the two concrete lock complexes, the Lorentz and Stevin lock, located at different ends of the dike, covered in a retroreflective layer from Roosegaarde. This layer will cause the 60 monuments to light up from the headlights of passing cars for a "cinematic experience creating a spectacular entrance to the Afsluitdijk."

Gates of Light. Images: Studio Roosegaarde


Gates of Light. Images: Studio Roosegaarde

Additionally, the unqiueness of the straight line of the dike will be celebrated with Line of Light, which will see the guide rail on the Afsluitdijk get a reflective layer, giving cars added safety and creating a Zen-like calm.

One of the temporary designs will be a reworking of Roosegaarde's previous piece Waterlicht. Presented at the midpoint of the Afsluitdijk at a place called Breezanddijk, it uses LEDs, lens, and custom software and will feature wavy lines of light that mimic rippling water. This "virtual flood" showcases how high the water in the Netherlands would be without engineering projects like the Afsluitdijk. Along with this, other temporary works include energy-generating kites with luminous cables, for a piece called Windvogel, and Glowing Nature, which will use bioluminescent algae from micro-organisms and place them inside a historical bunker from the period when the dike was completed in 1932. Visitors will be encourged to interact with these natural forms which causes them to light up.

"The Dutch landscape has traditionally been a place for innovation," says Roosegaarde. "Our dikes symbolize the creative power of the Netherlands when it comes to living with water. Now it is time for an update. It is an honor to work on this project."

The Afsluitdijk. Image: Studio Roosegaarde

Windvogel. Image: Studio Roosegaarde

Line of Light
. Image: Studio Roosegaarde

Glowing Nature - Icoon Afsluitdijk. Image: Studio Roosegaarde

Watch a video of Waterlicht below.

Waterlicht Afsluitdijk by Daan Roosegaarde from Studio Roosegaarde on Vimeo.

Visit Studio Roosegaarde's website here to learn more about the project.

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