Licht Kunst Licht

In the first of our two part series with multi award winning German design studio Licht Kunst Licht, we take a look at five of their recent completed projects which provide a broad overview of the studio’s capabilities. 

Disclaimer: I used to work at Licht Kunst Licht’s Berlin office. As a result, perhaps it’ll come as little surprise to discover that I have nothing but praise for their work, professionalism and sheer design ingenuity. I’m not the only one, though, it seems: having clocked an impressive 24 awards for numerous projects since 2018 alone, it’s fair to objectively say that LKL are one of – if not the – most successful lighting design studios in Europe.

In an attempt to reverse engineer their success, I returned to LKL’s offices in Berlin’s rough and ready Kreuzberg district to analyse a number of recently completed projects. Together with LKL’s Laura Sudbrock, we identified four different recent projects which best encapsulate the wide spectrum of LKL’s approach. 

Novartis: custom luminaires in an unusual subterranean environment 

Our first example takes us to the Novartis Campus in Basel, where we dive directly into one of LKL’s specialities: that is, developing custom lighting solutions in the very early stages of projects in close collaboration with architects and engineers.

With corporations increasingly keen to promote greener and more sustainable modes of transport, Novartis’s decision to incorporate a visually impressive underground parking garage exclusively for that tried and tested green powered transport device – the bicycle – is perhaps indicative of the global shift in transport mentality that will be increasingly prevalent in the next few years. 

While the corrugated concrete perimeter and the deep blue PU flooring are in themselves impressive aesthetic elements within the subterranean space at the Novartis Campus, the overriding visual impression is one ultimately characterised by the 16 impressive ceiling integrated wheels of light designed by Licht Kunst Licht – each measuring more than 7m in diameter. 

…the bicycle garage is perhaps indicative of the global shift in transport mentality that will be increasingly prevalent in the next few years…

The idea of integrating the cylindrical ceiling recesses with light was realised in close collaboration with Marco Serra’s architectural practice and lighting manufacturer Trilux, who responded with one-off bespoke luminaries for the project. Based on material and luminaire mock ups, the installation was firstly tested in LKL’s workshop before undergoing a thorough 1:1 mock up at Trilux’s production facility in Germany. 

Photos: Johannes Roloff

The final incarnation of the custom luminaire installed within the subterranean space sees an LED ribbon with 120° beam angle continuously and homogeneously backlight the PMMA surface with neutral white light. A daylight and presence detecting control system guarantees an energy efficient lighting solution, which ensures a general illumination of at least 150 lux in the garage for orientation and safety. 

Casino Dusseldorf: Human Centric Lighting through an ingenious artistic installation

As John Bullock rightly argued in his Lux Live Keynote ‘the status of human centric lighting today’, the term ‘Human Centric Lighting’ is being overused (and misused, for that matter). As this project from LKL demonstrates, however, a truly ‘Human Centric’ approach can have a powerful impact within the greater confines of the design concept. What’s more, a ‘Human Centric’ approach can be best exploited in conditions where natural light is totally absent from a given space. 

The windowless canteen of a bank in Düsseldorf was in a sorry state of affairs before LKL and tsp hip Seidel architects went back to the drawing board in 2018. An essential design task in the renovation of the 465 square metre cafeteria was the introduction of an additional daylight component as a reference to the outside world. 

Through the clever manipulation of artificial light, LKL went about developing a strategy to implement daytime variations in light, taking into account seasonal variations of light in addition to changes in light colour, direction and intensity while simultaneously supporting the circadian rhythm of the canteen’s workers and diners. 

Photos: Johannes Roloff

The pièce de résistance of the entire installation, however, is undoubtedly the 22-metre long virtual Rhine river panorama, a snapshot from artist Stephan Kaluza’s series, “The Rhine Project”, in which he documented the entire 1,233km of the river Rhine through a series of panoramic camera shots.

The resulting photo montage was printed on pleated drywall and illuminated by 1.5m long tuneable white LED Profiles concealed in the ceiling behind a protective glazing. Extending across the entire rear wall, the panorama compensates for the lack of daylight by establishing a connection with the exterior, presenting a view of the Rhine that one might see from a room at ground level.

Starting with 2,700K in the morning, the colour temperature gradually evolves into a cool 6000K around noon. To add an element of warmer ambience in the evening, similar floor mounted RGBW Profiles add wisps of orange hues for sunrise and sunset. The overall result is an atmosphere astonishing similar to the natural cycle of daylight outside.

National Museum of Qatar: blossoming light in expressive room sculptures

Our next stop takes us to the National Museum of Qatar in Doha. Jean Nouvel’s architectural structure is in itself a sensational piece of art, with numerous volumes of cathedral like heights and nomadic tent structures criss-crossing to create huge apertures of daylight and unique spatial confines. 

The 11 galleries of the permanent exhibition, which deal with 700 million years of natural and cultural history, are as diverse as the exhibition spaces themselves and harness a combination of multimedia projections and exhibits to tell the story of the region’s craftsmanship, economic and political developments.  

Photos: Danica O. Kus

Much more than simply providing museum lighting for the exhibition’s 2.7km long course, however, LKL developed an architecturally integrated light narrative to accompany the visitor throughout the entire exhibition. In short, light has been utilised as a key tool with which to guide the visitor on a narrative historical journey. With the exhibition characterised by a series of artefacts, models and reproductions in a variety of display cases and video projections and screens, the visitor is led through numerous contrasting visual realms. 

In order to provide an overlapping cohesive visual narrative, LKL developed a concept consisting of two layers of light: general illumination provided by glare controlled adjustable luminaries in the ceiling, and the emphasis of individual exhibits in display cases by means of integrated and mostly invisible miniature luminaires. 

Museum Goldkammer Frankfurt: subtle scenography in sumptuous surroundings

The last stop on our tour takes us a little closer to home. In contrast to the National Museum of Qatar, which expands over 40,000 square metres, the Goldkammer Museum in Frankfurt presents its collection of gold artefacts over a comparatively compact 480 square metres. Thanks to LKL’s lighting concept, however, the effect is no less striking. 

Courtesy of Berlin exhibition developers merz merz, the exhibition showcases more than 500 artefacts throughout 6,000 years of gold-themed history. To unveil the sumptuous collection of artefacts ranging from ancient coins to jewellery, merz merz purposely developed the underground complex to mimic that of an ancient Egyptian burial chamber. The task for LKL was thus to create a refined lighting concept both scenographic and dramatic in its effect.

In order to provide this subtle yet intriguing dramatic effect, LKL devised a lighting concept utilising ceiling-positioned 2,700K spot lighting to accentuate the yellow and gold tones of the main material in question. The vitrines lining the walls of the central chamber benefit from an addition selection of ultra discreet LED spots.

Photos: Marcus Ebener

Arguably the two centrepieces of the entire exhibition – the only preserved gold bust of Licinius I, ruler of the Eastern Roman Empire from 308 to 324, and 300 of the 1,084 gold bars of the Rothschild Collection, the largest collection of gold bars in the world – are displayed in two opposing chambers connected by linear strands of light from the ceiling, which in itself gives the impression of daylight seeping into the crypt.

The entrance foyer leading guests into the exhibition has also been treated to a tastefully opulent lighting scheme. Thanks to an arrangement of solid brass custom suspended luminaires with 3,000K LEDs, the dark blue walls and brass surfaces within the entrance are given a warm toned accentuation congruent with the overall conceptual approach of the design.

Conclusion

This selection of projects represent merely a fraction of the work undertaken by LKL in the last year or so. I feel that they are nevertheless representative of the studio’s wide approach to design and their capabilities of undertaking challenging projects on both a large and small basis with the same passion for detail and ambition. 

Stay tuned for part two of our series with Andreas Schulz, CEO and founder of Licht Kunst Licht

https://www.lichtkunstlicht.com/de/

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