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Community / Public space

In pictures: Amsterdam's rainbow train station

Designer Daan Roosegaarde is making a name for himself as the creator of urban interventions that combine design with practicality. There were his bioluminescent tree streetlamps, the smog-eradicator he installed in a park in Beijing, his glow-in-the-dark road markings, and his Van Gogh-themed cycle path

Now, the designer has created an installation to mark UNESCO’s Year of Light which taps into an improbable marriage of space technology and design. For a short amount of time every evening, one of the arches in Amsterdam’s Central train station does this: 

It’s very pretty – but onlookers might not realise quite how impressive it really is. The installation makes use of “patterned liquid crystal optics”, a new light filtering technology which splits white light into a rainbow. This has been deceptively difficult in the past: other methods, such as prisms, weaken the colours or “leak” light, so the rainbow isn’t evenly dispersed or appears washed out. 

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The technology was designed by the company ImagineOptix and a researcher from North Carolina State University to help scientists produce images of “exoplanets” (planets outside our solar system). 

Here on earth, though, filters like the one above allowed Roosegaarde to create a rainbow with strong colours that fit the station’s curve exactly. It also ensures that no light from the intense spotlight leaks. This is important from a safety point of view, as any leaked light aimed at the station could momentarily blind drivers and passengers. 

The installation will be in place until next December.

All images: Studio Roosegaarde.
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