Icoon Afsluitdijk designs unveiled

With the unveiling of the first “Spiegelsteen” (Mirror Stone) in the dike, Minister Schultz van Haegen (Infrastructure and the Environment), Klaas Kielstra (member of the Provincial Executive of Friesland), and Cees Loggen (member of the Provincial Executive of Noord-Holland) launched the Icoon Afsluitdijk project in Breezanddijk today. Daan Roosegaarde and his team of designers, technicians and developers unveiled the designs which from this and next year on will add to the iconic value of the dike as a global showcase of Dutch Design, hydraulic engineering, and innovation.

Rijkswaterstaat is improving the Afsluitdijk over the years ahead so that in the future too it will continue to protect the Netherlands from the powerful forces of water. Among other things, new locks and pumps will be installed so that more water can be discharged. The result will be the largest pumping station in Europe. The government and the region have taken this opportunity to create room for initiatives involving recreation and tourism, as well as nature development and sustainable energy. Studio Roosegaarde will enhance the cultural and historical value of the dike and make new links between people and the landscape.


Minister Schultz: ‘Cornelis Lely’s innovative design has protected our country for more than 80 years. The Afsluitdijk is much more than an unending separation of salty and fresh water. The Afsluitdijk stands for daring, action, and innovative engineering. In this project, we are building on that tradition and, in terms of flood risk management, sustainability, and innovation, the Afsluitdijk will thus remain a living legend today, tomorrow and in the distant future.’

In a video message, Minister Bussemaker (Education, Culture and Science) spoke of how pleased she was about the awarding of the status of design icon to the Afsluitdijk. ‘From the defence lines at Den Oever and Kornwerderzand, to the Lorentz and Stevin locks and Dudok’s Vlieter Monument, the Afsluitdijk is a series of national monuments. It is also symbolises the source of our national history and culture: the battle against – and living with – water. And, as an icon, the Afsluitdijk is a symbol of our future, of our imaginative power and desire for innovation.’

Kielstra: ‘We are very happy with Roosegaarde’s innovative art. It is a wonderful addition to all the innovative projects we have developed, in collaboration with the government, based around the New Afsluitdijk, to encourage recreation and tourism, and the economy and employment in the areas of Noord-Holland and Friesland that border on the Afsluitdijk.’

Roosegaarde: ‘The Dutch landscape has traditionally been a place for innovation. Our dikes symbolise the creativity power of the Netherlands when it comes to living with water. With a subtle layer that links darkness and light, we create new connections between the past and the future, between the practical and the poetic, and between man and nature. It is an honour to work on this project.’


In addition to unveiling the first Mirror Stone, Schultz, Kielstra and Roosegaarde presented six Spiegelstenen (MirrorStones) to people who have meant a lot to the Afsluitdijk. The light-reflective spiegelstenen are a unique series of stones made from old basalt blocks. They are a tribute to the 5000 workers who, over five years, built the 32-kilometer-long dyke by hand, stone by stone. Two stones went to Messrs Pennekamp and De Jong, who spent their working lives maintaining the Afsluitdijk. One stone will go to the family of Cornelis Lely. The architects of the new Master Plan for the Afsluitdijk, Yttje Feddes and Paul de Ruiter, received one stone. Alex Terpstra accepted a stone to be placed at the Monument on the Afsluitdijk, and Bert Kranendonk and Theo op de Hoek received a stone for the new Experience Centre on the Afsluitdijk.


On Friday evening at 9:30 p.m., Daan Roosegaarde will open a temporary exhibition in Breezanddijk where a 16-metre-long model of the Afsluitdijk will be on display showing test setups of all the concepts that will be built on the Afsluitdijk in the years ahead. Two concepts are permanent in nature: Lichtpoort and Lichtlijn.

Gates of light

Studio Roosegaarde is strengthening the 32-kilometre-long Afsluitdijk with a retroreflective guide rail which only lights up by the headlights of passing cars. This unswerving, almost Zen-like line of reflected light, which enhances the straightness and design-icon status of the Afsluitdijk, creates a feeling of calm and safety. The permanent concepts will be completed in 2017.

Temporary works:


‘Windvogel’ (Windbird) is being developed in collaboration with the Delft University of Technology and follows the dream of the late Wubbo Ockels (Dutch physicist and astronaut) to realise energy- generating kites. These high floating kites generate energy from the wind ranging from 20 up to 100 kW. In addition to Ockels’ dream, Roosegaarde designed luminous cables for the kites, creating a play of dancing lines whilst visualising the energy which surrounds us.

Glowing Nature

Glowing nature consists of natural bioluminescent algae cultivated to give more light and to live longer. These all natural micro-organisms are one of the oldest organisms of the planet. Glowing Nature will be showcased in a historical bunker, dating from 1932 on the Friesland side of the dike. Visitors can interact directly with the algae as when the algae move, they emit light. The installation is a poetic example of the future of nature and energy in our world.

Daan Roosegaarde

Designer and innovator Daan Roosegaarde (1979) is known internationally for his social designs. With his team of designers and engineers at Studio Roosegaarde he creates designs aimed at improving the relationship between humans and space. Roosegaarde has won various international design and art awards, and he has had exhibitions at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Tate Modern in London and in public spaces across the globe. Interaction, innovation and beauty are key in what he himself describes as “techno-poetry”.

The project

For the Icoon Afsluitdijk project a maximum of 13 million euros has been reserved, paid by the ministries of Infrastructure & the Environment (8 million euros) and Education, Culture & Science (2 million euros), and the regional partners, the provinces of Friesland and Noord-Holland (3 million euros). The costs involved are for the preparatory work, design, contracting and realisation, and maintenance for 5 to 10 years. Studio Roosegaarde will be paid for the design and art direction on realisation. The largest portion of the budget will go to the party or parties to whom the open tender is awarded. A budget of 831 million euros has been reserved for the complete improvement of the Afsluitdijk.