During the darkest time of the year, the Amsterdam Light Festival sets the city aglow with 35 light installations scattered around the winding streets and canals. Featuring site-specific art pieces by local and international artists who worked under this year's theme 'Friendship', the dazzling event runs entirely on renewable energy and 95% of the lights are low-energy LEDs.
The brilliant annual event started by Felix Guttmann and Rogier van der Heiden—chief designer at Philips Lighting is a public-private collaboration between the municipality, the cultural sector and numerous businesses. It showcases 35 site-specific light artworks, most designed specially for the festival. Featuring work from local and international artists from India, Chile, Sweden and Hungary, among other countries, the festival makes Amsterdam even more magical.
There are two main trails visitors can follow through, on foot or by boat. The (free) walking route called ‘Illuminade‘ takes visitors through 20 light artworks distributed throughout the culturally-rich neighborhoods of Weesper and Plantage. From bright projections on historical buildings to interactive lighting systems in the parks, this route allows locals and visitors to discover the Netherlands’ capital in a new light (literally).
Some people believe that ‘you haven’t really ‘done’ Amsterdam until you’ve been on the canals’. So if you are in town during the festival, walk the trail but also make sure you sail. The boat route, called ‘Water Colors’, offers a unique opportunity to experience the city on water, which gets even more stunning during the winter event. As the light pieces interact or reflect on the water turning the 75-minute, € 20 trip, visitors are immersed in a dazzling spectacle they won’t soon forget.
We recently took the ‘Water Colors’ route, wrapped up in a blanket aboard an open sloop boat, to take close-up photos and admire the artworks from different angles. We saw kinetic light sculptures, LED decorations on bridges, glow in the dark aerial pieces and charming reflections of colored LEDs on water. Among our favorites was Swedish light art pioneer Alesksandra Stratimirovic’s ‘Northern Lights’, a moving aurora borealis made from LEDs symbolizing friendship.
Another piece that caught our eye was ‘Friendala‘ by Chilean artists Macarena Meza and Daniela Orallana. Their installation consists of a large mandala — Indian symbol for unity and integration of people — which becomes a full circle when one half reflects the other half on water.
As well as using 95 percent of LED lights powered by renewable energy, the festival actively seeks second ‘homes’ for the artworks so they don’t go to waste. Otherwise, they will find a permanent space for them somewhere in the city.
So if you plan to be in Amsterdam between now and 17 January, 2016, you’re in for an unforgettable treat.
Photos © Ana Lisa Alperovich for Inhabitat