Gates of Light by Studio Roosegaarde is a permanent installation on the 32KM long Afsluitdijk dyke in North Holland. Daan Roosegaarde and his team were commissioned by the Dutch State and governing bodies of the local regions to repair the historic floodgates and imbue them with iconic status. The result, a stunning futuristic experience that is utterly sustainable. We chatted to Studio Founder Daan about the creative process behind this incredible work.
Gates of light is an excellent example of our ethos, ‘Design to Improve Life’.
We use design and technology to make environments better for people and nature. With his project, we wanted to blend the historical element with a pure energy neutral landscape, and after two years of work, we made it happen.
The dyke was built in 1932 to ensure that the Dutch and the Netherlands didn’t drown as we live below sea level. It was in need of renovations, so we were invited by our Minister to highlight the iconic value of the dyke. From the outset, we didn’t want to add too much to the space. LED’s or excessive cables didn’t feel sustainable, so we started to examine what was already there. We quickly realised there was light present from the traffic. It’s a great example of upcycling. Harnessing the power of car headlights and transforming it into a mesmerising, yet highly practical experience.
During the two year process, we carried out vital renovation work; the dyke was to be restored to its original form, including its original colour which was a difficult challenge as all the images captured of it were in black and white. 80% of the project was undesigning. Removing redundant elements, which had been added over the years. We also had to make things darker by reducing light pollution in the surrounding area. You cannot imagine how difficult it is to have items removed from a public space. Throughout the project, our focus was to achieve minimal input yet create maximum performance. It has this hyper pragmatism, which turns into poetry.
I think there is something exciting when you take historic buildings and enhance them. Gates of Light is really about appreciating history while making a future statement. We are merging these worlds. Every day more than 20.000 cars pass by the Gates of Light illuminating sixty monumental floodgates providing a futuristic experience. We listened to a lot of Daft Punk and Philip Glass during the design process, and I think this minimal science fiction aesthetic filtered into the design.
It was important to us, to future proof the work, so we spent time reviewing the roof to ensure that it will still work if one day, we have flying cars.
It’s been really rewarding seeing how visitors interact with the space. You can visit it by car and by bike or on foot. Even the light of your phone enhances the experience. The local community are very proud of the project, and it just shows you don’t have to upgrade reality. We utilised the ingredients given to us, and that simplicity really worked.