Holland’s “techno-poet” turns dike into an icon

The creator of the Van Gogh cycle path, Daan Roosegaarde, has unveiled his latest spectacular art installation project, Icoon Afsluitdijk on Holland’s longest dike, the Afsluitdijk. His light interventions will emphasise the iconic value of the dike as a showcase of Dutch hydraulic engineering, innovation and design.

Holland’s “techno-poet” turns dike into an icon

Europe's largest pumping station

New locks and pumps are to be built to protect the Netherlands from the forces of the sea, resulting in Europe’s largest pumping station. Studio Roosegaarde’s “techno-poetic” installations will be created alongside the engineering works to stress Holland’s culture and history, a continuous battle against the forces of nature.

Climate change

The dike, designed by Dutch architect Cornelis Lely, was completed in 1932 after devastating floods inundated towns just north of Amsterdam exactly a hundred years ago. Now the sea defences are being overhauled to meet the challenges of climate change and rising sea levels.

Dudok’s monument

When it was first built 80 years ago, the Afsluitdijk was a major engineering feat safeguarding lives and livelihoods for generations to come. The 32-kilometre long dike connects the northernmost provinces of North Holland and Friesland creating an economic lifeline between the two otherwise isolated regions. It also created a huge fresh-water lake where the “water wolf”, as the sea used to be known, once raged.

The dike has been the location for iconic constructions before with Dudok’s modernist Monument at the point where the dike was completed. The look-out is a welcome break for motorists. Rather than adding new monuments, Roosegaarde will highlight the existing ones by adding a reflective layer, which lights up as cars pass. 

Roosegaarde’s icons

Six Mirror Stones have been made from old basalt blocks. They pay tribute to the 5000 workers who constructed the dike stone by stone over the course of five years. One of the Mirror Stones will be placed outside Dudok’s monument.

The concrete of the Lorentz and Stevins locks is to be restored. Once this has been done it will be covered with a retro-reflective layer creating the spectacular Gates of Light on the huge sluice walls.  

Drivers will be treated to a zen experience, the Line of Light, while they traverse the long, straight road and their lights reflect on a guide rail parallel to the road, giving them a soothing sense of serenity.

Luminous algae

The Windbird, a temporary installation, is a tribute to the late Dutch astronaut Wubbo Ockels, whose dream it was to design energy-generating kites, windbirds. These huge floating kites are being developed in collaboration with Delft University. They will be able to generate between 20 and 100 kW. The luminous cables with create playful dancing lines enabling us to visualise the energy in the air.

The last temporary installation, Glowing Nature, uses one of the planet’s oldest organisms. Visitors to a historic bunker will be able to interact in a pool filled with natural bioluminescent algae, which have been cultivated to give more light and live longer. As they move the algae emit light poetically symbolising the interrelationship between nature, man and energy.