MUSEUM LIGHTING - INTERVIEW WITH PROF. ANDREAS SCHULZ

 

Founded in 1991, the lighting design office Licht Kunst Licht, with offices in both Bonn and Berlin, has participated in over 600 domestic and international projects.

Among them are numerous renowned museums which have been honored with international awards. One of the more recent projects is the LWL Museum for Art and Culture in Muster. With its extension by Staab Architekten, it was reopened in September 2014. In an interview with editorial staff of LICHT, Licht Kunst Licht founder and owner Prof. Andreas Schulz explains the specific challenges of this and other museum projects of his office.

 

LWL MUSEUM OF ART AND CULTURE, Münster

LWL Museum of Art and Culture, Münster

LWL Museum of Art and Culture, Münster

LWL Museum of Art and Culture, Münster

LWL Museum of Art and Culture, Münster

LWL Museum of Art and Culture, Münster

In its exhibition spaces, the LWL Museum can utilize the luminous ceiling frames and accent lights separately or together. This provides a wide range of lighting options, which include uniform wall washing of the display walls, a combination of ambient and accent lighting, and an introverted, dramatic light atmosphere only using accent lights. The ability to dim the luminous ceiling frames and each individual LED accent light allows for an adaptation of the illumination for each respective visual task and conservation requirement. (Architect: Staab Architekten; Photo: Marcus Ebener)

 

LICHT: In your lighting design for the LWL Museum, Licht Kunst Licht made it a priority to guide the visitor through the building by means of light, thus offering a leitmotif from the foyer to the exhibition rooms at the second floor. What is behind all this?

 

Prof. A. Schulz: As in all of our museum projects, it is not only about the standard of high quality, but it is also about offering exceptional lighting solutions from an ecologic and functional perspective. Naturally, daylight has great significance. Although visitors of the LWL museum feel an increased exposure to natural light upon entering the skylit spaces, the vitality of daylight is already palpable in the lobby. The three-storey lobby is spanned by horizontal glazing and a membrane ceiling underneath. When receiving sunlight, the play of light and shadow moulds the space, while even during overcast situations the visual relationship with the exterior remains intact.

The perceivable dynamics of daylight encourages the visitor to explore and embark the building. The architectural visitor guidance visually enhances the circulation up a magnificent stair to the upper floor, which we supported with a custom made ceiling mounted linear lighting profile. The profile conceals the light sources, yet creates relatively high illuminance levels on the stair surfaces, not unlike a luminous carpet.

 

LICHT: In the exhibition spaces a lighting solution has been realized that has never been done in museum lighting before...

 

Prof. A. Schulz: We opted for a wall flanking array of backlit ceilings. This ceiling integrated artificial light frame creates a calm ceiling slab and simultaneously ensures a uniform illumination of the display walls. A lighting track extends within the seam between the light frame and the central ceiling, where accent lights can be freely positioned. Depending on the exhibition type and lighting requirements, the museum can use the luminous ceiling frames and projectors separately or together.

On the top floor, the museum has five skylit toplit spaces with large, centrally located skylight ceilings. Here too, a combination of luminous ceiling frames and light tracks is employed, whereas their luminous flux adjusted according to the amount of daylight received.

 

 

AHRENSHOOP MUSEUM OF ART, Ahrenshoop

Ahrenshoop Museum of Art, Ahrenshoop

Ahrenshoop Museum of Art, Ahrenshoop

Ahrenshoop Museum of Art, Ahrenshoop

Ahrenshoop Museum of Art, Ahrenshoop

Five individual buildings, merged into an ensemble by a connecting flat roof, form the Museum of Arts in Ahrenshoop. The building volumes are evocative of the typical local fishermens' cottages with their thatched roofs and low eaves. Unlike the fishermens' cottages, the museum is not daylit via windows, but from the roof ridge. Here, wide skylight ribbons with prisms sandwiched between isolation glass layers, scatter diffuse daylight into the space while deflecting direct sunlight. The electric lighting is also located at the space's zenith. By means of operable screens, the amounts of daylight and electrical light can both be regulated. (Architect: Staab Architekten, Photos: Stefan Müller, Image below: Licht Kunst Licht)

 

LICHT: A completely different project, also designed by Staab Architekten and realized in cooperation with Licht Kunst Licht, is the Museum of Art in Ahrenshoop. Unlike the LWL-Museum, daylight and electric light emanate from the same spatial opening. What were the particular challenges of the lighting design?

 

Prof. A. Schulz: The LWL-Museum was a big project with a corresponding budget. The existing extension was demolished and replaced with a new building. We were engaged in the project for more than five years, a duration not uncommon for museum projects. The Museum of Art in Ahrenshoop, on the other hand, is a small house which was realized thanks to civic commitment. The goal was to establish a permanent homestead for the works of the artist colony's early years and the subsequent artistic developments in Ahrenshoop and its surrounding region.

The small budget left nearly nothing for the lighting equipment. Consequently, we gave an even greater importance to daylight than usual. We designed the house to be exclusively daylight driven and equipped it with minimal supporting electric illumination. The decision making process for the design of the skylights and the entire roof structure has been made in close collaboration with the architects. We have conducted numerous tests in order to establish the optimal skylight opening to provide the most efficient and plentiful daylight intake - with premium quality.

 

LICHT: What is the role of the museum curator and his goals for the following exhibition?

 

Prof. A. Schulz:: In most cases the curator and the exhibition designer are not yet present at the early stages of a museum project. Unfortunately, they are usually involved at a much later stage, when the museum operators figure out what is to be exhibited and in which locations. For us this means we need to provide a lighting concept that offers extreme flexibility, able to cater to many types of exhibit situations. However, there are other examples: Museums with permanent exhibitions such as the Alte Nationalgalerie on the Museum Island in Berlin. Here, the exhibition scenography and the positioning of each exhibit were fixed from the start. We were able to respond to that and knew that our lighting concept would be sustainable, as nothing will be rearranged.

 

 

MUSEUM OF THE BAVARIAN KINGS, Hohenschwangau

Museum of the Bavarian Kings, Hohenschwangau

Museum of the Bavarian Kings, Hohenschwangau

Museum of the Bavarian Kings, Hohenschwangau

The starting points for museum lighting can be very different. In permanent exhibitions, such as the Museum of the Bavarian Kings, the position of exhibits and the spatial scenography are determined at an early stage. Often, either the exhibition design is not fixed at the time of the lighting conception or the lighting design must meet the flexibility requirements of temporary exhibitions. (Architect for reconstruction and extension, exhibition design: Staab Architekten; Photo: Marcus Ebener)

 

LICHT: What that means is, as a rule, the subsequent exhibition designs have to be anticipated, and although there is a chance that it will be quite different, the lighting design needs to be able to respond.

 

Prof. A. Schulz: In the Städel Museum, for example, a new underground building was designed to provide the museum with a temporary exhibition hall. It was clear from the beginning that various room installations would be implemented to enable a variety of exhibition designs. This allows art to be displayed in a differentiated manner. Therefore, we have furnished the skylights at the Städel Museum with their own intelligence, they are controlled individually and can thus respond to the installations underneath if required. This is how we tried to establish the desired flexibility - through an intelligent control system.

 

LICHT: Will lighting design offices in the future face greater demands with regards to control technology competence, or can this still be performed by electrical engineers?

 

Prof. A. Schulz: When we began our design work on the Städel Museum we quickly realized that we will have to extensively concern ourselves with the lighting controls. After all, the complexity our lighting design carries is best understood by the designer himself. We have developed this expertise in our team, as the demand for lighting designers with proficiency in both lighting and control technology for museum projects has notably increased. The digitalization of light and the use of intelligent luminaires generally involves a greater extent of building control services. So while the former lighting scope with other services ended at the junction box, we now often find ourselves involved in the control system as well.

 

LICHT: The Städel extension has been highly praised and received numerous awards. Among others, the German Lighting Design Award 2013 recognized the project with the Daylight Jury Prize. What innovations did the lighting concept implement for the underground exhibition space?

 

Prof. A. Schulz: : Although the extension building was completed at the beginning of 2012, it remains cutting-edge. The design we envisioned and realized has an incredible relevance; many museums attempt to harvest technical intelligence. We had the advantage of being fully involved in the design of the new extension from its early design to its execution. Meanwhile, we made use of the most advanced technology available on the market. The building not only makes use of intelligent controls for the electric light, it also implements a sophisticated daylight control system based on several light reducing layers. These layers are operable through an electrical engine and are controlled via a sensor in correlation with the varying daylight conditions.

However, the innovation exists in the harmony of daylight and electrical light. The term now coined as “tunable white” was already being used in our design at this time: Integrated into the skylight openings are two distinct LED light systems. They have the potential to blend 2700K warm white light with 5000K cool white light , as to allow a variation of white light colors.

 

 

STÄDELSCHES KUNSTINSTITUT AND STÄDTISCHE GALERIE, Frankfurt am Main

Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main

195 skylights with diameters between 1.5 and 2.5 meters allow daylight into the underground extension building of Frankfurt's Städel Museum. Apart from the daylight component, they also serve as an electric light source by means of an integrated LED ring. Moreover, LED accent lights with various optic options can be introduced into sockets located in the skylight openings. When the hall is organized into smaller rooms by means of partition walls, the skylights can be allocated within the resulting spatial areas. This flexible definition of skylight groups allows a selective adjustment of lighting conditions for the exhibits. Operable screens in the daylight openings limit the daylight intake as required. Using a combination of warm and cool white LEDs gives the electric light's color temperature the ability to be adjusted accordingly. (Architect: schneider+schumacher; Photo: Norbert Miguletz)

 

LICHT: When lighting food in retail applications, the colors of certain goods are specifically accentuated with light in order to make them appear fresh and attractive. Would such an artificial enhancement be plausible when lighting works of art in a museum context? For instance, the chilly blue of Caspar David Friedrich's Arctic Sea landscape could be subtly transformed to be perceived even cooler to the observer. To what extent can a museum lighting designer indulge in this temptation?

 

Prof. A. Schulz: That is an American approach to design. There are well known manufacturers who are trying to respond to particular works of art by establishing specific spectral distributions. It is up to art historians to evaluate the legitimacy of this practice. Generally, works of art were, and still are painted in daylight, exposed to the sun’s full spectral composition. This is even true for the Modernist period. It is certainly possible to enhance the blue shades of artwork by using a particularly high blue content in the light spectrum. In our projects, this has never been requested, and remains fundamentally foreign to us.

Above all, our clients involve us because we offer a lighting atmosphere that makes the exhibition space palpable, but does not necessarily respond to every single exhibit. However, that does not mean that we never encounter lighting tasks where details or elements need to be featured with light. Our ambition is to respond to the architecture with a lighting concept appropriate to the overall functional and aesthetic idea.

 

 

DARWINEUM ZOOLOGICAL GARDEN, Rostock

Darwineum Zoological Garden, Rostock

Darwineum Zoological Garden, Rostock

Darwineum Zoological Garden, Rostock

Curators and museum directors decide whether the exhibition space lighting is to be neutral and balanced or dramatic. If the focus is on educational purposes, like at the Darwineum at the Rostock Zoo, dramatic and entertaining effects can be an asset. In museums of art, the scenographic component is usually limited. (Architect: Rasbach Architekten; Exhibition Design: Atelier Brückner; Photo: Michael Jungblut)

 

LICHT: Museums are booming in this country. Attendance figures in German museums rise year after year while numerous special exhibitions make the offered program even more attractive. Like in the world of fashion, can you pinpoint special trends in museum lighting and the staging of art work?

 

Prof. A. Schulz: In principle, we think it best to illuminate museums as neutrally and balanced as possible. In the museums exclusively displaying art, the scenographic component is rather modest. Lately, however, many so-called entertained museums are emerging with a high proportion of scenography. These museums attract a broad audience. Likewise, museums can have an educational impact, such as the large Experimenta project in Heilbronn. In such projects, the scenographic and dramatic illumination are part of the overall concept.

 

 

MUCEM - MUSÉE DES CIVILISATIONS DE L'EUROPE ET DE LA MÉDITERRANÉE, Marseille

Mucem Musée, Marseille

Mucem Musée, Marseille

Mucem Musée, Marseille

A lighting concept for a museum does not only emphasize the exhibits but also embraces the space as a whole. A strong link between the architecture and the lighting solution has been realized at the Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée (MuCEM) in Marseille. The suspension for exhibits, textile display walls, and the lighting system all utilize the ceiling coves that emerge through an array of precast concrete ribs. (Architecture: Rudy Ricciotty architecte; Exhibition Design: Studio Adeline Rispal; Photo: Studio Adeline Rispal / Luc Boegly)

 

LICHT: From an international perspective, museum architecture is in a state of flux...

 

Prof. A. Schulz: ...Absolutely. The Gulf States indulge in large art museums, in which their quality of architecture are works of art in their own right. We are currently working on the lighting design for the new National Museum of Qatar by Jean Nouvel. The world’s leading construction companies have long hesitated to realize the explosive, unprecedented architectural approach of Jean Nouvel. It took almost two years to find a contractor willing to build this complicated museum.

The building translates the metaphor of clay fragments found in desert sand (of the desert rose). This building’s design has a spatial quality that is not neutral, rather it becomes part of the exhibition. Museum spaces emerge that defy common visual experience. There are no vertical display walls meeting horizontal surfaces, for instance. All walls are contorted, slanted or merge into a vaulted roof. This is an enormous challenge for lighting and the scenography alike, since the wall surfaces cannot be utilized for display purposes.

 

 

 NATIONAL MUSEUM, Qatar

National Museum, Qatar

National Museum, Qatar

National Museum, Qatar

LICHT: Museum architecture has become much more self-confident. What does that mean for museum lighting?

 

Prof. A. Schulz: The success of Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao made it evident that architecture can evolve into a powerful marketing instrument. This often means that much livelier and more expressive architecture is selected. While in former times, the aim was to create neutral spaces, the trend now is to find an individual response to the lighting task and to show consideration to the building by putting the museum architecture itself in scene.

 

LICHT: Thank you very much for this interview!

 

Author: The interview was conducted by Andrea Rayhrer, Stuttgart

 

Im März dieses Jahres fand in London die Preisverleihung des Illumini Infinity Award statt. Das Programm würdigt kreatives Schaffen von Lichtplanern, und wir konnten gleich zwei Ehrungen entgegennehmen. Erneut wurde das Städel Museum (schneider + schumacher mit Kai-Otto) mit einer Auszeichnung „Winner Silver“ in der Kategorie Kultur-Bauten prämiert.