This Is How Studio Roosegaarde Turned Amsterdam Into An Underwater City

Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, has startling similarities to Venice. A huge system of canals rules both cities, both have a nightlife people dream about (although arguably singles dream about the Amsterdam nights while couples dream about the Venice nights) – and both are below sea level.

It’s the unspoken reality in the city that a system of waterworks quietly keeps the streets dry so that people can walk without getting wet 7 feet under the ocean. Without these dams and dikes, over 26% of the country would be underwater. It’s easy to ignore or forget such a reality, but in context of today’s melting ice caps and extinction threats, our generation no longer has the freedom to assume that merely installing a chimney solves the problem of smoke coming from burning fuels – or that dams are the solution to rising sea levels.

While a set of people continue to deny the existence of climate change (yes, there are some who do that), another finds ever more creative ways to send the message to the masses. Studio Roosegaarde, the social design lab of artist Daan Roosegaarde, decided to submerge eight acres of Amsterdam in water. Through art, of course.


Above the Museumplein Square in Amsterdam, between the 12th and 13th of May, light pretended it was a water surface, a stunning virtual flood spread over everyone’s heads. A clever system of LEDs, lenses and software mixed with a gas released from steam machines turned light into water, an eerie yet beautiful spectacle for the people of Netherlands.

Waterlicht is the dream landscape about the power and poetry of water. As a virtual flood, it shows how high the water could reach without human intervention.

Studio Roosegaarde, known for adding glow-in-the-dark roads and Avatar-like plants in Rotterdam, turned it’s eyes to more artistic projects through Waterlicht. “Waterlicht shows how the Netherlands would look without waterworks; a virtual flood,” says Roosegaarde. “Innovation is seen throughout our landscape, pushed by the waterworks and our history, but yet we almost seem to have forgotten this.”


CO2 levels are the highest they’ve ever been, the past year has been the hottest the world has seen (and this year shows no signs of letting that record be), and analysts project that we are now at a point where even stopping emissions worldwide this instant will still send the Earth’s temperature 2 degree Celsius higher by 2100.

Art is the medium people are now quietly using to deliver this harsh message across – whether it’s through a set of pictures conveying the awkwardness of daily life in our natural habitat, or the artificial flooding of a city, the point remains the same, that humanity cannot get away with what we’re doing forever.


Author: Suhail Gupta


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