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Open Highway – Surfacing the hidden layers of the city

Created by RNDR, Open Highway is a real-time light installation visualising highway vehicles at a scale of 1:1 from the Leidsche Rijn tunnel over the A2 highway in Utrecht, Netherlands.

The installation is a part of a masterplan for Leidsche Rijn as designed by Maxwan in 1994. When the neighbourhood is finished in 2030, there will be about 110.000 people living in this gigantic addition to Utrecht. The Berlijnplein and the district of Hoge Weide exists largely by the grace of the tunnel over the A2, as the tunnel ensures that the district is a single entity, free from nuisance of speeding cars on the motorway, and connects the area seamlessly to the rest of the city. The light installation is designed to reveal the hidden highway, the first layer in the new history of this neighbourhood.

Cover photo by Juri Hiensch

The installation itself consists of 14 eleven meter long light bars whose shape and placement corresponds exactly to that of the two-times three lanes of the A2 that is below the work. Seven bars face towards Den Bosch (front white light, back red light) en seven bars are faced towards Amsterdam. In the nearby RAUM pavilion hangs a large screen that visualizes the real-time traffic data with detailed speeds and capacity of the highway and functions as an explanation for the project.

The work is life-size (scale 1: 1) and spectators can walk through the lights and explore the space freely. A sound component reinforces the desired effect, in the form of a linear actuator that taps the metal of the beam. Sound that moves through space works very powerful and arouses the suggestion that vehicles drive through space. In each light segment a linear actuator is installed, which simultaneously gives a physical “tap” to the metal of the H-beam. As a result, the sound moves in space, parallel to the light. The sound is reminiscent of vehicles that ride over ripples on the road.

The team used a single Intel NUC, 4G Mobile Hotspot, DMX controllers, linear actuators and 270 meter of water resistant led strips. Every 60 seconds they download and parse the latest state of traffic behaviour relevant to the location (data is provided by the Nation Database of Road Traffic/NDW). The received speed and capacity values per lane will then be brought together in a 1 to 1 simulation model programmed in OPENRNDR. Followed by a direct signal over DMX to control the LED lights and actuators.

Project Page | RNDR

Credits: Concept, design and programming by RNDR. Commissioned by RAUM, Utrecht, 2018-2019 Supported by Creative Industries Fund Video production by Collector. Hardware was built by Ramses Nieuwenhuizen and Vincent Krouwer. Installation on location by Van Wijk, Nieuwegein Photography installation by Juri Hiensch.

Photos by Juri Hiensch

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