Circle of Life
Rob van Houten

Circle of Life

Some places require an archway. Take the Melkmeisjesbrug, for example, the narrow, pedestrian-only bridge that connects the Brouwersgracht and Herengracht. Providing an almost magical entrance to the city center, it’s hard not to imagine an archway over this bridge. This winter, this wish has become a reality. Amsterdam-based architect Rob van Houten has designed Circle of Life specifically for the Melkmeisjesbrug, a ring of light around the bridge that, when at its highest point, makes it seem as though it’s floating above the city.

Circle of Life is a Möbius strip, or a loop with only one surface and one side. It was named after the German mathematician and astrologer August Ferdinand Möbius who discovered the loop in 1858. It quickly became a symbol for eternity, and was used by Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher in drawings and etchings from the 1960s; in one drawing he depicted ants marching on a Möbius strip-like grid.

Circle of Life is also about eternity, about the endless stream of water in the canals and the rush of people to the city. The colors of the ring also play an important role in this scene. It starts off in a milky white color, depicting an empty city needing to be filled with life. When someone crosses the Melkmeisjesbrug, the intense light flows in both directions and blends together to form new colors.

It’s a different experience from the water. When a boat passes the bridge, the ring’s milky white light reflect the light dancing along the sides of the canals at night; more rough and wild at first, until the water settles and the calmness returns. And then everything starts all over again: shake, light up and settle – Circle of Life functions just like the city itself.

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