Waterlicht – Dream Landscape about the Power and Poetry of Water

After posting a few articles on this interesting concept a while ago, I had the chance to experience Waterlicht of Studio Roosegaarde live on stage. Middelburg, a city and municipality in the south-western Netherlands serving as the capital of the province of Zeeland, celebrates its 800th anniversary these days. Situated on the central peninsula of the Zeeland province, Midden-Zeeland, there is probably no better place around the globe to host Roosegaarde’s Waterlicht. Here’s why…

North Sea Flood 1953

The living light artwork make me think about the ‘North Sea Flood’ that hit the area back in the fifties. North Sea flood (Dutch: Watersnoodramp, literally “water emergency disaster”) was a major flood caused by a heavy storm that occurred on the night of Saturday, 31 January 1953 and morning of the Sunday thereafter. The floods struck the Netherlands, Belgium, England and Scotland.

Picture of Waterlicht Middelburg by Studio Roosegaarde

Roosegaarde’s ‘Waterlicht’ in Middelburg, The Netherlands simulating a virtual water flood. Picture: Studio Roosegaarde.

A combination of a high spring tide and a severe European windstorm over the North Sea caused a storm tide. A combination of wind, high tide, and low pressure led to a water level of more than 5.6 meters (!) above mean sea level in some locations. The flood and waves overwhelmed sea defenses and caused extensive flooding.

The Netherlands, a country with 20% of its territory below mean sea level and 50% less than 1 meter (3.3 ft) above sea level and which relies heavily on sea defenses, was worst affected, recording 1,836 deaths and widespread property damage. Most of the casualties occurred in the southern province of Zeeland.

Waterlicht Middelburg by Roosegaarde

‘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 and raises awareness around rising water levels caused by global warming.

Originally the light artwork was created for the Dutch District Water Board Rijn & IJssel. New site-specific series of WATERLICHT were created for the Museumplein in Amsterdam which attracted more than 60.000 visitors in 1 night and the Afsluitdijk in the Netherlands, among other places.

Picture of Waterlicht Middelburg as seen through the screen of a cell phone


Innovation is engraved into the DNA of the Dutch. Its national landscape as seen by its innovative water program and creation of dikes reflects this very well. WATERLICHT is a powerful and somehow poetic experience to remind us of the role and importance of innovation.