Rising sea levels, precipitated by climate change, threaten to overwhelm the world’s cities if we do nothing — that’s the message Studio Roosegaarde vividly brought last week to the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York City. The studio’s light display, Waterlicht New York, showed the height of water levels during 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.
Waterlicht, or water light, creates a virtual flood with technology, including LED lighting, lenses, and software. First installed in the Netherlands in 2015, Waterlicht has visually demonstrated water levels stemming from climate change around the world. Studio Roosegaarde brought what they call the dream landscape to New York City for World Water Day.
Waterlicht lit up the North Lawn at UN Headquarters, employing artwork to underscore the idea that climate change could dramatically alter our cities as water levels increase. Studio Roosegaarde quoted Dutch Special Envoy for International Water Affairs Henk Ovink as saying, “The Sandys and Harveys of this world will not stop. On the contrary, they are the new normal, becoming more extreme year by year.”
The National Hurricane Center listed Sandy and Harvey among the costliest United States tropical cylones ever; Harvey is the second costliest storm on record for all US hurricanes with around $125 billion in damage. Sandy clocks in at fourth place with $65 billion in damage. Around 72 people died in the United States because of Hurricane Sandy; Harvey’s death toll was over 80 people.
Waterlicht wasn’t meant to be just a warning, but to spark inspiration. Studio Roosegaarde founder and designer Daan Roosegaarde offered possibilities for how humanity might harness water in the studio’s press release: “Can we build floating cities; how much power can we generate from the movement of water? Experience the vulnerability and the power of living with water.”
Images courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde