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Artwork Lightwaves based on bioluminescent organisms

Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. One of the creatures that is capable of this feature is the sea sparkle, a single-cell marine-dwelling species, that lights up when disturbed by waves. Lightwaves (also called Lightwall), designed by Forces of Architecture, is an artwork that is based on these organisms. Instead of with water, however, it interacts with the wind. As soon as the wind starts blowing, the fabric ripples, lighting up the more than three thousand integrated LED lights. Lightwaves is exhibited during the Amsterdam Light Festival.

Sea sparkle is a kind of bioluminescent algae that appears in many parts of the world, including the North Sea. In summer time, these organisms come together along the coastline. Millions of sea sparkles collide in moving water, producing a chemical reaction, which results in a bluish light.

Lightwaves is an interactive installation that mimics the bioluminescent behaviour of these organisms. Basically, it is a large curtain with LED lights installed in it, which are activated by wind. When it is dark, you can barely see the curtain, until the lights turn on. Gusts of wind act as waves, producing a light effect in a semi-transparent veil of thousands of LEDs, which capture the – otherwise invisible – airstreams. How much you see of the work depends on how hard the wind blows (see videos, the second one is in Dutch).

The material for the artwork was created in collaboration with Swiss textile manufacturer Forster Rohner. The flowing translucent fabric is made of cloth used for flags, so it can withstand different kinds of weather. In total, the veil consists of 84 square meters of fabric (904 square feet) containing 3300 LED lights.

The artwork is made by the research lab Forces of Architecture, which consists of designer Jólan van der Wiel and Benthem Crouwel Architects. This lab examines how natural phenomena can serve their built environment.

Lightwaves can be seen during the Light Festival in Amsterdam from 1 December 2016 till 22 January 2017. The artwork is located on Herengracht at the Blauwbrug (‘blue bridge’), best seen from the Amstel.

Photos: Forces of Architects / Benthem Crouwel Architects