The latest work from Dutch artist Herman Kuijer is a duo of permanent light art pieces for two highway underpasses-the Marstunnel and the Kostverloren tunnel-in Zutphen, Netherlands, a city situated along the IJessel River. Commissioned by ProRail, the country’s railway network, in collaboration with the city, the installations took five years to realize and showcase Kuijer’s experiments with light, color, and space. Bands of colored light, using LED fixtures, create an inviting gateway from the newer, outlying areas to the city center, providing an artistic expression that is also functional. For each artwork Kuijer worked with a different team of architects and engineers to produce a visually engaging experience while ensuring that the installations met all the functional requirements for roadway lighting.
For the design of the Marstunnel, Kuijer worked with the architect Mari Baauw and engineer Bert Jongstra, both at Royal Haskoning, an international engineering and project management firm that specializes in infrastructure related projects. The underpass has two sections, one for automobile traffic and another roadway for cyclists. Trains pass overhead.
The color scheme and the changing cycle of light are meant to emulate moving water, a nod to the IJessel River nearby. To determine the proper light levels, Kuijer enlisted the help of light engineer Nico de Kruijter. The space had to feel safe and incorporate the light fixtures in such a way so as not to interfere with drivers’ and cyclists’ visual site lines. Each section of the tunnel changes color, randomly with the aid of a computer-program so that the color sequence slowly washes the ceiling, walls, and roadway in different hues. Several mock-ups and a 1:1 scale model built by LightInternational Purmerend enabled the team to test the light output.
The Kostverloren tunnel, designed with architecture firm Maurer United, an interdisciplinary design studio, is for pedestrians and cyclists only, while rail lines run above. Here, parts of the concrete structure are actually painted so that as the light changes, also by way of a computer-program, the surfaces also morph in their tones. A custom-designed LED luminaire is ceiling-mounted.
“It was a great challenge to work in this specific urban context where aesthetics are paired with accessibility and the safety of the user,” said Kuijer in a prepared statement. “My task was to create a sustainable work to allow people to pass safely through and also experience in the Netherlands.”