Mirror, mirror

The bicycle and pedestrian tunnel under the A10 between the Westerpark and the Arlandaweg will become a new connection at the cutting edge of urban design. Mirrors and retroreflectors will create a magical effect.


Although they all worked in the same building at De School in Amsterdam, they didn't know one another. The light artists Christopher Gabriel and Arnout Hulskamp from Children of the Light, and Jarrik Ouburg of HOH Architects, were inspired by each other's work during the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. It was only later that they discovered their studios were in the same building. They decided to work together to create a design for the A10 underpass, which was the subject of a design competition held by the Municipality of Amsterdam. This was a smart move, because the design “Mirror, mirror” was chosen as the winner, and will be implemented this summer.
Christopher Gabriel, Children of the Light
Arnout Hulskamp, Children of the Light
Jarrik Ouburg, HOH Architecten
At the studio of Children of the Light

Part of the future

Amsterdam is undergoing a period of rapid growth. With the development of the Sloterdijk-Centrum district, the border of the city will make a major shift westwards. The underpass under the A10 connects the centre of Amsterdam with Sloterdijk, and is used by thousands of people every day on the way to work, school, sport or the Westerpark. However, it will soon also be used by the new residents of Sloterdijk. The underpass has a rather dull appearance, and users claim it is an unpleasant place to be in the evening. This motivated the municipality to investigate how the underpass could be improved, to create a more pleasant connection with the centre of Amsterdam.

Impression of the current underpass:

“We’re talking about the future of this underpass,” the light artists of Children of the Light tell us in their studio in Amsterdam. “It will be there for many years, and will be used by many people. We feel part of that future, as we are also users of the tunnel. That’s exactly why we wanted to take part in this competition. We have long dreamed of creating a permanent installation for the city.”

According to Jarrik Ouburg of HOH Architects, city gates of the past were iconic buildings that made you very much aware of the moment of entering the city. “As you cycle through the city, you create your own scenario as you move from point to point. This underpass should be one of those points, a highlight that’s worth taking a detour to cycle through.”

Design of the 21st-century city gateway

No added light

Light pollution is an important issue during the development of the city. It affects our health and well-being. Children of the Light: “We began working on the project by asking ourselves: can we make the tunnel more pleasant without adding light? There’s so much light in the city already, why would we want to add more? We don’t see LED lighting as an innovation for the future. It’s still light pollution. We’ve got to act smarter, and treat our environment with greater care. For us, this was a reason to avoid adding extra light.”

An impression of the winning design:

21st century gateway

The design emphasises the existing architecture of the underpass, and eliminates the gloomy atmosphere by cladding it with mirrors and retroreflectors, materials from the world of infrastructure. HOH: “We’ll use the existing light to illuminate the underpass. Mirrored panels on the ceiling and columns will make the space lighter, opener and more spacious. Retroreflecting panels, which are also used for traffic signs, will be illuminated in the evening by the lights of cyclists, scooters and trams. This will create an unexpected experience. The light will reflect on all sides, which means users and trams themselves will activate the design. It will become a game of shadows and light. We will transform a static space into a special, dynamic experience. It will become a magical place that will last for years.”

Christopher, Jarrik and Arnout at the underpass

Children of the Light: “Our philosophy survived the design process, even when new people became involved with the project. The design appears simple, but it’s actually quite daring. Everyone believes in it, and feels ownership of this unusual design. The users of the underpass who voted for this design could also see that it would be something special. That’s something to be proud of. We’re really looking forward to the moment that we actually install it.”