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Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin

"We're now discovering things we never saw before!"
Relighting of the German Museum of Technology, Berlin

With exhibition space of around 26,000 square metres, the German Museum of Technology (Deutsches Technikmuseum) in Berlin is one of the largest museums of its type in Germany. ERCO recently upgraded the lighting to LED technology. The relighting project demonstrates how improvements in efficiency and the optimisation of light go hand-in-hand.

With around 600,000 visitors annually, the German Museum of Technology located in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg is a genuine crowd-puller in the German capital city's multifaceted museum landscape. The cultural institution makes use of a diverse range of buildings consisting of both old and new constructions on the site of the former Anhalt freight and postal railway depot. The permanent and special exhibitions cover a wide spectrum of topics: as well as aviation, shipping, rail and road transport that count as some of the main attractions of the museum, visitors can also learn about textile technology, telecommunications, film technology, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, engineering constructions and brewing.

Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin

The German Museum of Technology in Berlin grabs attention in the urban space with a spectacular 'raisin bomber' installed on the building roof.

Energy saving as the motivating factor

The relighting of the museum had a long preliminary phase, as explained by Professor Joseph Hoppe, Deputy Director of the museum and the driving force behind the project. In view of the climate change debate he began to familiarise himself several years ago with the topic of sustainability and the ecological footprint of organisations. As part of this his own museum was also placed under focus. A sustainability survey unsurprisingly revealed that the somewhat antiquated lighting, primarily consisting of fluorescent tubes and spotlights with energy-saving lamps, represented a significant share of the museum's energy consumption and offered distinct potential for savings.
In parallel to this survey the museum worked in co-operation with the Berlin Technical University on a project dedicated to LED lighting technology called "LED Catwalk" that was presented in the historic freight yard loading bay during the International Year of Light in 2015. According to Joseph Hoppe, this convinced him not only of the energy saving benefits but also of the qualitative possibilities provided by LED technology. A public subsidy program sealed financing of the relighting that could not have otherwise been paid for from the museum’s normal budget. Awarding the contract to ERCO as part of a Europe-wide tender was based on a consumption analysis and on-site sampling, and as well as energy efficiency and brilliance of light, ERCO also scored points with the durability and reliability of their products.

Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin

The light is precisely where needed to arouse the children's interest in sailor's knots.

A qualitative quantum leap in museum lighting

Relighting the museum took a whole year because installing and commissioning the lighting could only be carried out on closing days. The project, technically supervised by lighting designer Karsten Krause, was implemented from department to department in close co-operation with the specifically responsible curators. At the beginning, some of his colleagues were sceptical about the relighting, admitted Hoppe. However, the new light spoke for itself and after that it couldn't be installed quickly enough for the curators. In the end everyone was completely satisfied.
The figures are also impressive: by converting to LED technology the museum is able to save annual energy costs of 125,000 euros. This corresponds to a reduction in CO2 emissions of 395 tonnes. Hoppe would not be doing his job as an expert in museum management if another effect of the relighting was not just as important – the quantum jump in quality of the museum lighting. "The new light allows both us and the public to discover things we never saw before. It's particularly noticeable in the railway exhibition. We can now see the construction details on the black steam locomotives that were extremely difficult to illuminate, and the innate aesthetic style of the machines can be distinguished." Hoppe was also enthusiastic about the ERCO Spherolit lenses that give variability and flexibility to the luminaires: the simply exchanged lenses mean that the museum team can also fine-tune and readjust the light at a later date.

Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin

ERCO light underlines the thematically arranged structure in the densely packed exhibition hall. All important elements of the ship's design on the Kurt-Heinz tugboat are easily identifiable at the same time.

Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin

Lighting with ERCO spotlights renders the flying object floating in the space perceivable for visitors.

Structure via peception hierarchies

Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin

The light ideally supports the design concept of displaying the historic aviation motor in suspended state.

The photometric challenge

In contrast to most other museums no room resembles another in the German Museum of Technology, neither in relation to the architecture and daylight situation, nor in terms of exhibits and exhibition design. The range of objects is also enormous – obvious differences in size come together with a rare diversity of materials and surfaces, with some suspended openly in the space and others displayed in cabinets. Despite the extremely different lighting requirements resulting from this, only three ERCO luminaire families with power consumption of between 4 and 48 watts are needed for the lighting tasks: Optec, Parscan and Pollux. Optec spotlights with 12 and 24 wattages and narrow spot, spot, flood, wide flood and oval flood light distributions provide the high-performance basis of the museum lighting. Parscan with 48 watts is used in particular in high rooms where light needs to be projected over long distances. Pollux contour spotlights emit precise light onto pictures, information signs and text panels.
With its relighting the German Museum of Technology Berlin sets standards in its sector for contemporary museum lighting that will remain in use for many years, and ERCO once again demonstrates its expertise in a photometrically highly challenging area. The project also illustrates the variable and diverse application options of ERCO lighting tools.

 
Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin

About the author:

Mathias Remmele works in Berlin as a freelance publicist and exhibition curator for topics relating to architectural and design history. As a critic he focuses on contemporary developments in these areas. He is also a lecturer at the School of Art and Design in Basel.

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