Daan Roosegaarde's Waterlicht installation mimics northern lights in Dutch skies

Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde has created a lighting installation that resembles the aurora borealis above a flood channel of the Netherlands' River IJssel (+ slideshow).

Dubbed "the northern light of the Netherlands" by Studio Roosegaarde, the Waterlicht installation is designed to create the impression of a "virtual flood" and will debut this evening at the location near Westervoort.

Waterlicht by Daan Roosegaarde

The waving lines of light spread across 1.6 hectares bear a resemblance to the northern lights – the natural phenomenon created when charged particles enter the Earth's atmosphere – when viewed from underneath.

From the surrounding dykes, the blue LEDs create the impression of water where it would be if the defences weren't in place.

Waterlicht by Daan Roosegaarde

"Walking on the dyke the light lines are perceived as high water, once in the flood channel you find yourself in an underwater world," said Roosegaarde.

"By adding – aside from the latest LED-technology – experience and perception, we create a virtual flood," he added.

Waterlicht by Daan Roosegaarde

The LEDs are projected through lenses to focus the light. The sources are installed around the periphery of the area, positioned so the beams criss cross in midair as they slowly move up and down – powered by motors.

Waterlicht was created in partnership with Dutch water board Rhine and IJssel to raise awareness that large areas of the Netherlands lie below sea level.

Waterlicht by Daan Roosegaarde

"In Waterlicht people experience what the Netherlands would look like without its dykes," said water board chairman Hein Pieper. "Awareness is crucial, because the Dutch (water)artworks need every day maintenance and our national water awareness is the foundation of that maintenance."

Following this evening's preview, Waterlicht will be visible between 19:30 and 22:00 from 26 February to 1 March.

Waterlicht by Daan Roosegaarde

Staff from the water board will be on site during these times to explain about the protective earthworks.

Roosegaarde has completed a variety of light-based installations in his home country. Last year, he illuminated a bike path with patterns based on Vincent van Gogh's painting The Starry Night and turned an arc-shaped section of Amsterdam's Centraal Station into a rainbow.