The Past in Lights
I first saw this project last year, and was immediately taken by it. Designed by the Dutch firm Okra, it is a great example of “the new old” that I talked about in my design philosophy post.
The city of Utrecht, in the Netherlands, is built on top of an ancient Roman castellum, or watchtower. As the city has built up, the walls of the castellum have steadily been covered over, to the point where they are now 12 feet underground. The firm decided to pull the buried walls back into the present.
A subtle, lighted trench follows the castellum walls, shining a green light into the air at night to depict the outline of the Roman building in the present-day city. They even left a gap at the gates! The effect is elegant and eye-catching. Though physical invasion is minimal, it forcefully exposes the history of the city to passers-by.
I love how it uses the ancient history of the city as the foundation of the design, while using modern lighting and a very clean aesthetic to place it firmly in the now. The project clearly adds to the sense of place in Utrecht, making visitors and citizens more aware of the city’s past and incorporating it into the present urban fabric.