When I became aware of this project, an alternate reality was traveling the world, showing awed visitors the future landscape wrought by our rising seas. The Waterlicht public art project, translated as “water light,” was created by social design lab Studio Roosegaarde and commissioned by the Dutch water authorities. From their website, Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde works with his team of designers and engineers to create “landscapes of the future for a better world. The studio connects people, technology and space to improve daily life in urban environments and spark imagination.”
Using a combination of LEDs, software, and lenses, layers of blue light are created that undulate and billow with the wind and rain just over the viewer’s head. Special care is given in each city to reduce light pollution around the exhibit. It can take six months to design and get permits for an installation that may only last a few nights. Since its inception about five years ago, Waterlicht has been showing in cities around the world such as Toronto, London, Dubai, and New York. It has won the IESNYC Lumen Award New York in 2020, as well as various international awards.
The goal of the project is to raise awareness about rising water levels and foster conversations looking for creative solutions similar to the Dutch creation of dikes. Roosegaarde says, “It’s not a lack of technology, it’s a lack of imagination for what we want the future to look like. The role of public art is a really great trigger to create this collective experience where people are curious, not afraid.”
Studio Roosegaarde has been using technology for a decade to inspire innovation towards creating a better world. Dan Roosegarde founded the studio in 2007 because, he says, “I had ideas, and nobody knew how to build them. So I just thought, ‘We’ll do it ourselves.’” Roosegarde is the type of person who creates beauty and truth simply because he sees no other alternative: “I make things because I look outside my window and I don’t understand the world anymore. The CO2, the traffic jams, the rising water . . . Waiting for government or politicians is not going to help. I try to make things to show you it can be done.”
Reality Changing Observations:
1. What is unique or inspirational about Roosegarde’s approach? Why is it effective?
2. What other artists use their work to create a better world?
3. What will climate change look like in your community in 50 years?