Light and Architecture Scintillating Worlds

Subway station Hafencity University Hamburg, pfarré lighting design
Subway station Hafencity University Hamburg, pfarré lighting design | Photo: Markus Tollhopf

Lighting design has long since emerged as an independent planning discipline that operates not only in theatre, stage shows and large-scale events. Today the worlds of work and living and also to a considerable extent urban spaces, parks, railway and subway stations are being designed with lighting for day and night.

Berlin, Symphony of a Great City, a film realised by Walter Ruttmann in 1927, revealed for the first time an urbanity moved by light, with brightly illuminated night-time streets and architectures. The darkness of the rear courtyards is contrasted with shimmering auto headlights, cinema and shop window lighting, neon advertising, images swirling in circles, above them the light signals of the radio tower, like a lighthouse above the ebb and flow of the city.

Neues Bauen, new construction in light

In the 1920’s, electrification and fascination with light as a design element in architecture arrived in rural areas as well. In 1925 in Celle, a small city in the Lüneburger Heide in Lower Saxony, architect Otto Haesler set a new accent for construction and living in the Neues Bauen movement with his glassed-in staircase towers with night-time illumination in the St. Georgs Garten settlement. In the 1930’s and 40’s, these gentle gradations of tonality in the experimental implementation of light in architecture were displaced not only by the monumental impact in the cathedrals of light that were a central element of Albert Speer’s stage-settings for the NSDAP party rallies in Nuremberg. They met their end in ash and rubble during the Second World War, in the glare of flak searchlights, in the devastating thunder and lightning of the carpet-bombings of the air war, and in the light of flares dropped as glaring harbingers of the coming hailstorm of bombs.

New impulses through art

At least in major cities, the darkness of the post-war period was quickly replaced with scintillating new night-time worlds, colourful neon advertising and curvaceous neon lettering. The interior and living environments of the 1960’s and 1970’s were increasingly brightened up with international lighting design, with Danish, Italian and American lamps.

Impulses from artists were needed to conceptualise light as an independent spatial dimension, adjustable atmosphere and emotion. At the Documenta in Kassel in 1964, the Zero group demonstrated how one can draw with light in space. Constructional colour light projections by Gerwald Rockenschaub and installations by Via Lewandowsky set new impulses in design with light in Germany. A significant pioneer among the light creatives is the American artist James Turell. As early as the mid-1960’s, he began experimenting with optical illusions in which light appears not merely as a coloured surface, but as an independent light architecture.Today, design with light has grown into a multi-disciplinary field in which designers, artists, architects, engineers and technologists work closely together. The Luminauten group (Berlin), winner of the 2014 German Lighting Design Award in the category of next-generation ranking, is an association of artists and designers. They stage spaces and create interventions in space with light.
 
  • Otto Haesler, Siedlung St. Georgs Garten in Celle, Ausschnitt Foto: Stadtarchiv Celle
    Otto Haesler, Siedlung St. Georgs Garten in Celle, Ausschnitt
  • Schöner Schein, im Palmengarten Frankfurt am Main auf der Luminale, Luminauten Foto: Andreas Wiegand
    Schöner Schein, im Palmengarten Frankfurt am Main auf der Luminale, Luminauten
  • Schöner Schein, im Palmengarten Frankfurt am Main auf der Luminale, Detail, Luminauten Foto: Andreas Wiegand
    Schöner Schein, im Palmengarten Frankfurt am Main auf der Luminale, Detail, Luminauten
  • Altes Wasserwerk Wilhelmsburg, Ulrike Brandi Licht Foto: Jörn Hustedt
    Altes Wasserwerk Wilhelmsburg, Ulrike Brandi Licht
  • Masterplan für Rotterdam Abbildung: Ulrike Brandi Licht
    Masterplan für Rotterdam
  • U-Bahnhof Hafencity Universität Hamburg, pfarré lighting design Foto: Markus Tollhopf
    U-Bahnhof Hafencity Universität Hamburg, pfarré lighting design
  • U-Bahnhof Hafencity Universität Hamburg, pfarré lighting design Foto: Markus Tollhopf
    U-Bahnhof Hafencity Universität Hamburg, pfarré lighting design
  • Maximilianeum München, Plenarsaal, Licht Kunst Licht AG Foto: Werner Huthmacher
    Maximilianeum München, Plenarsaal, Licht Kunst Licht AG
  • Maximilianeum München, Plenarsaal, Lichtdecke, Licht Kunst Licht AG Foto: Werner Huthmacher
    Maximilianeum München, Plenarsaal, Lichtdecke, Licht Kunst Licht AG

Moods of colour and light

For lighting designer Ulrike Brandi (Hamburg), technical expertise and design competence are of a piece. She conceives of lighting design as an essential element of architecture through which spaces are lent an experiential dimension. With her master plans for the cities of Bremen, Hamburg and Rotterdam, Brandi demonstrates that lighting can be used as a unifying element of urban space.Stage-set with lighting, transportation buildings, in particular subway stations, are much more than tedious places to kill time waiting. The Hamburg subway station Hafencity Universität designed in 2012 in a project association by Raupach Architekten, Pfarré Lighting Design and Stauss Grillmeier picks up on the harbour’s daylight atmosphere with its twelve coloured and glassed-in containers of light suspended from the ceiling. Alternating between red, blue, green and orange, the station is immersed in a sea of changing moods and rhythms of colour and light.

Generalists for lighting requirements

The design company Licht Kunst Licht, founded by Andreas Schulz in 1991, has made a name for itself not only through lighting design for the Federal Chancellery and the Paul Löbe and Elisabeth Lüders Buildings in the governement district in Berlin. They were also involved in the remodelling of the Maximilianeum’s plenary assembly hall in Munich by architect Volker Staab. It is conceived as a daylit space with a completely glazed roof. Here, lamps in the ceiling cavity enable a seamless transition from daylight to artificial lighting through the use of modern lighting and reflector technology, and at the same time the deployment of TV-compatible pictures.

Today, lighting specialists are generalists for all lighting requirements that arise in construction. A new research direction in light generation through bioluminescence demonstrates that they are also developing new ideas for sustainable strategies for tomorrow. It will be exciting to see what fields of research will come together in the future under the heading of lighting design.