SPEICHERSTADT (Warehouse District) HAMBURG
Illumination of the Speicherstadt
In April 2001, the city of Hamburg witnessed the realization of a project without
precedent: for the first time, an entire city district was set ablaze in light.
Over a 1.5-kilometer stretch, the world’s largest historical warehouse
complex transformed itself into a fascinating nighttime panorama. More than 60
harbor launches celebrated the moment in a concert of ship sirens. Since then,
a picture of the Hanseatic city characterized by beauty, elegance, and ease has
been carried throughout the world.
The light conception in this case had no previous reference
to fall back on – no comparable object of similar size and sophistication
of architecture that had not yet been illuminated. First experiences
concerning the subject of light were made on location in September
1999 during the theater project “Mozart. Amerika”. It was
seen how light could provide rhythm and quality. The success of the
theater project marked the breakthrough for the idea of an illuminated
Speicherstadt. The formulated light concept was the basis for the realization
of the project – not least because of the demand for aesthetics,
profitability, and environmental friendliness.
The result is an extremely captivating event of light and dark – that is, a single model quarter and picturesque approach to the building ensemble, whose street names still remind one of the quarter where religiously persecuted Dutch refugees used to live.
From an art history perspective, an homage is definitely due to the chiaroscuro technique and its perfection in Dutch painting.
Operations in the buildings became co-authors of the light planning. The inner water axle in the canals no longer needed for making deliveries, allowed us to restrict the transportation of light from a single light fixture through each floor, all the way up to the wheel roofs. The parts projecting from the façade with light touches of sandstone; the grounds’ scuffed, round cants; the portholes’ finishing circular arc, all come to light. And the somewhat laid-back doors appear like portals for a performance. The picturesque and imaginative gains in importance. The warehouses hold something mysterious; and the price is not revealed at the first glance. The Speicherstadt does not present itself as a landscape in the first fleeting look. As a place of preserved time, it retains the richness of its impressions for the beholder who is rewarded for taking his time.
The model for the still-active street-side for the delivery of supplies is called pairing. At both sides of the still-operating wind elevator, two cantilevers were set above the profile shape of urban light. The overall larger light owes itself to the position of the old city . The projection side of the Speicherstadt is found directly on the border canal, which is destined to have a promenade as soon as the custom’s fence falls. Thus, the Speicherstadt would serve a portal-like role for the planned Harbor City – the large city development program located directly at the annexation of the Sandtorkai, the world famous address for the coffee trade.
One of the important compositional elements on both the water side and city side is omission. From the outset, completeness was deliberately not executed so that the raw darkness could be preserved and stereotypes avoided. It wasn’t about projecting high zebra stripes of light, alongside each other in rows, but rather recording and reproducing the lively rhythm of architecture in light. Not to be appreciated in a one quick glance, the light work demands a long observation to gather the particular perspectives in time, which proved the intention to be right. Viewed from different perspectives, the Speicherstadt never looks exactly the same.
Another aspect of constraint concerns the development of the district’s lights, and the renovation of street lights. The more offices that come into existence, the brighter the district will be in the future. It shouldn’t be about a competition between the inner light of the offices and the outer light of illumination, but rather a meaningful dialogue. Of particular perturbance, are the pitch lanterns of the public street lights, which should be replaced by automatically timed lighting .
In the area of the facades – for example, in Block E (the Speicherstadt is divided into blocks) – the historical light locations were kept ; only the direction of the light was changed so that the textures of the designs on the walls could be emphasized. Object and facade proximity had absolute priority. Distanse, plane lighting, ledge calculations, and foreign colorings were mainly avoided. Downlights forbade themselves because of the glare, but also because of the dramatic effect – to eliminate fake moonlight projections , etc. A still spectacle, to which the surroundings, as a quiet, nighttime existence, lends itself, without over-dramatizing or romanticizing.
All of the bridges are lit from their substructures. The installation was ensued by pontoons, which because of the tides and electrical environment, were not always easy. From light material lamps with 18 watts lit in each case, the bridges appear like sculptures, artistic objects full of lightness. Especially here, the contrast of the lit metal structures in the water of the canals are very spectacular.
Standard material from Philips was used exclusively. Currently, approximately 830 lights are installed. By the end of the year, approximately 300 more lights are supposed to be put in. The trend toward miniaturization is to be valued as an absolute plus, as is the unique experience of the Speicherstadt.
The illumination project of the Speicherstadt will resume continously.
|Information also at www.lichtkunst-speicherstadt.de|