»Breaking Waves« by DRIFT / Illustration

Drift: Spectacular light installations in Hamburg

To mark the Elbphilharmonie’s fifth anniversary, the Dutch designer duo brings breathtaking light sculptures to the city on the Elbe.

Surrounded by water on three sides, the Elbphilharmonie offers a complete experience made up of music, architecture and nature. To mark the fifth anniversary of Hamburg’s new emblem, the Dutch designer duo DRIFT from Amsterdam lights up the city with its internationally acclaimed light and kinetic sculptures. An exhibition devoted to DRIFT’s work is running at Hamburg’s Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe (Arts & Crafts Museum) from 7 January to 8 May 2022. And on 28 April 2022, the facade of the Elbphilharmonie has been lit up by a light installation specially created to celebrate the concert hall’s fifth anniversary.

Elbphilharmonie: Breaking Waves :Light sculpture on the facade of the Elbphilharmonie

DRIFT has also created a work of art especially for the Elbphilharmonie that will make the outside of the building shine in a new light. The installation reflects the Elbphilharmonie’s surroundings and its interior: water and music. The interaction between the movements of the river water and those inside the building forms the key element of »Breaking Waves«. »We humans are subject to many kinds of wave movements, and we can merge with the undulating motion,« Lonneke Gordijn explains.

Owing to the pandemic, the premiere of »Breaking Waves« had been postponed to 28 April, the day when the 2022 Hamburg International Music Festival opened. People from Hamburg and visitors to the city observed the installation live from the areas around the docks. Hundreds of illuminated drones brought the concert hall’s facade to life, choreographed to match the second movement of the Piano Concerto by Thomas Adès, which was performed in the Elbphilharmonie’s fifth-anniversary concert on 11 January 2022.

»The Elbphilharmonie unites architecture and music in a particularly inspiring fashion. ›Breaking Waves‹ transfers this fascination out on to the facade, and is our birthday present to the people of Hamburg. Even though the installation loses its direct connection with the anniversary concert owing to the postponement until April, there is also a positive side to the change of date: the warmer weather means there is a good chance that more people will be able to enjoy the project.«

Christoph Lieben-Seutter, General & Artistic Director of the Elbphilharmonie und Laeiszhalle Hamburg

Breaking Waves (2022) by DRIFT at Elbphilharmonie Hamburg
Breaking Waves (2022) by DRIFT at Elbphilharmonie Hamburg © Florian Holzherr

The sculpture emphasises DRIFT’s mission to take art into the public space so that it finds a larger and more varied audience. DRIFT wants its public to be able to experience the installations with all five senses.

»Art should be accessible to as many people as possible. That’s why we designed our installation for the public space. When we started working with the Elbphilharmonie, we both immediately agreed that we need to bring what’s happening indoors to the outside, where people can see it.«

Ralph Nauta


The installation is sponsored by the Freundeskreis Elbphilharmonie + Laeiszhalle e.V. and realised in close cooperation with the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg.

Exhibition: Moments of Connection :7 January–8 May 2022 | Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe

With its most extensive presentation in Germany to date, the artists’ duo DRIFT turns 350 square metres of the Hamburg Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe (MK&G) into a realm of sensory experience. Three spectacular kinetic sculptures demonstrate man’s deep connection with nature: shining dandelion seeds, magnificent silk flowers that gracefully open and close, and a spatial installation that imitates birds in flight.

Three walk-in sculptures

The »Fragile Future« series that can be seen at the MK&G combines high technology with poetic imagery. Studio DRIFT picked real dandelion seeds by hand, arranged them one after the other around individual LED lamps and connected them to copper circuits. With this labour-intensive process, Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta also speak out against mass production and today’s throwaway culture. They ask whether the rapid technological developments of our time are really any more progressive than the evolution of nature.

The spacious main staircase of the museum welcomes visitors with a mobile still life depicting development and decay: the touching choreography of the light sculpture »Shylight« imitates the unfolding and closing of flowers using many layers of wafer-thin silk. Gordijn und Nauta of DRIFT were fascinated by the ability that some plants have to close at night in order to protect themselves and conserve their resources. This process, the artists say, reminded them of human beings and their emotional balance.

»In 20 Steps« is a tribute to the dream of flight – man’s longing to cast off his earthly fetters. DRIFT translates this persistent wish into a spatial sculpture of immense impact: 20 delicate pairs of glass wings beat above the visitor’s head like the wings of a bird – artificially reproduced by weights that glide to and fro inside tubes.

Lonneke Gordijn of the artists’ duo DRIFT talks to Tulga Beyerle, director of the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe.

»Fragile Future« (Studio DRIFT) »Fragile Future« (Studio DRIFT) © Henning Rogge
»20 Steps« (Studio DRIFT) »20 Steps« (Studio DRIFT) © Henning Rogge
»Shylight« (Studio DRIFT) »Shylight« (Studio DRIFT) © Henning Rogge
»Fragile Future« (Studio DRIFT) »Fragile Future« (Studio DRIFT) © Henning Rogge
»20 Steps« (Studio DRIFT) »20 Steps« (Studio DRIFT) © Juuke Schoori
»Shylight« (Studio DRIFT) »Shylight« (Studio DRIFT) © Henning Rogge
»Fragile Future« (Studio DRIFT) »Fragile Future« (Studio DRIFT) © Henning Rogge

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