Haunting virtual floods submerge cities around the world

Editor’s Note: This story is part of “Smart Creativity,” a series exploring the intersection between high-concept design and advanced technology.

CNN  — 

Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde has long explored sustainability issues through eye-catching installations that fuse science, art and design. From smog-eating towers and energy-generating kites to light-emitting bicycle paths, they have all captivated while also suggesting new possibilities for a more environmentally sound future. But “Waterlicht” may be his most breathtaking project to date.

The project, which first launched in 2015, sees city centers submerged in a virtual flood of undulating blue waves to raise public awareness about rising sea levels.

The effect is achieved using high-density LED lights, sophisticated software, reflective lenses and steam machines. When the light hits the steam, it creates the illusion of waves.

So far, Roosegaarde’s studio has brought his eerie “dreamscape” to 10 cities, including London, New York, Paris and Amsterdam, and he’s set to take on Toronto and Rotterdam before the year’s end.

waterlicht museumplein
Haunting virtual floods submerge cities around the world
02:56 - Source: CNN

Roosegaarde believes the projects have the potential not only to educate, but to connect visitors with one another. He recalls that, when 60,000 visitors came to experience “Waterlicht” in Amsterdam, “some were a bit scared because they’d experienced floods. Others were more mesmerized (by) a virtual reality, an augmented reality.”

“But at the same time, it’s real, you can touch it, feel it, experience it together,” he adds. “Technology jumping out of the computer screen and creating these collective experiences: That, I think, is the true power of tech.”

Watch the video above to find out more about Daan Roosegaarde’s “Waterlicht” project, and how technology informs his practice.