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Technical environment

Technical environment

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Yves Saint Laurent Museum Marrakesh, Marrakesh, Morocco

ERCO LED lighting tools for glamorous exhibition design: the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakesh

The recently inaugurated Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakesh presents itself as a veritable jewel of contemporary museum architecture. The interior of the monolithic brickwork construction designed by Studio KO surprises with its dramatic exhibition concept referencing the theater and stage. ERCO LED lighting technology installed in a walk-in black box enables the tones and textures of the iconic haute couture models of Yves Saint Laurent blossom.

Yves Saint Laurent Museum Marrakesh

The Studio KO architectural duo designed a museum ideally suited to the haute couture of Yves Saint Laurent – a building as flowing and complex as the master's clothing creations. Diverse laying patterns of the bricks serve to loosen the windowless facade via structures reminiscent of the warp and weft of textiles, and that also create a complex play of shadow in the light of the southern sun.

Outside: flickering heat below the sun of North Africa that illuminates the brick facade of the new museum building in the Rue Yves Saint Laurent in a warm, pink glow. Marrakesh, located in the south-west of Morocco, is famous for its houses painted in all possible tones of pink, red and terracotta. The exterior of the long, low building complex of the Yves Saint Laurent Museum pays homage to this typical color palette with its terrazzo base and artistic brick facade, and also to the typically Arabian architectural tradition of shielding the interior from the road. In the relief-like facade, the architects from Studio KO celebrate the complex plays of light and shadow below the southern sun.

Yves Saint Laurent Museum Marrakesh

In the so-called Black Box, the main exhibition space of the new museum, the colors, textures, embroideries, flounces and draped textile plies of the costly robes are crisply and three-dimensionally highlighted via accented lighting with Optec contour spotlights. This method of lighting that lends a sense of drama to the presentation underlines Christophe Martin's attachment to the world of theater.

Inside: an exhibition space completely in black – a black box that accommodates the key works of the creative genius Yves Saint Laurent and a scenographic concept that celebrates the opulence and diversity of the haute couture designs of the fashion designer who passed away in 2008, and was one of the most influential couturiers of the 20th century. Fifty selected robes, skilfully illuminated, confront visitors to the pitch-black darkness – clothed on mannequins assuming the appearance of protagonists on a theater stage.

The museum's permanent exhibition space is the work of the French architect and scenographer Christophe Martin. In 2005, at the request of Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent, he designed the latter's exhibition "le smoking", dedicated to the famous first trouser suit for women. This was followed by around 15 further projects in which everyone worked closely together. With the presentation in the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakesh, he provides an extensive insight into the life and work of the couturier who came to Morocco for the first time in 1966 with his life partner and business partner Pierre Bergé, and who also decided spontaneously to purchase a house in this city. The "red town" became his home away from home in Paris – and his most important source of inspiration. Christophe Martin purposefully intended not to present a classic retrospective. On the contrary, he sees the progress through the main exhibition space designed completely in black as resembling a trip through the mind and spirit of the creative genius – and exemplarily brings together selected iconographic models taken from four creative decades (1961 to 2002) along with jewelry and accessories to create an emotional, highly colored and diverse display. Due to conservation reasons, different haute couture models from the Fondation Pierre Bergé collection of over 3,000 pieces are displayed at regular intervals. In this way the filigree beauties are not unnecessarily burdened in their exposure to the visitors and public at large. In terms of lighting and also due to conservational considerations, the decision was taken for LED technology. Akari-Lisa Ishii, the lighting designer who transformed Christophe Martin's scenographic concept into LED lighting tools from ERCO explains. "LEDs generate hardly any heat or UV radiation, which is a very important aspect when illuminating sensitive and highly valuable textiles."

With Optec contour spotlights, the crisp-edged illumination of exhibits creates a color explosion in the black box

Those entering the foyer of the museum from the road and through the slender corridor between brickwork walls and the entrance courtyard, flooded with sunlight and embellished with a six-foot YSL logo (effectively displayed by two beamer projectors following the onset of twilight), is guided to the right towards the main exhibition space.
At first glance visitors experience complete darkness. "This contrast between bright and dark and between the exterior and interior was an essential factor in designing this space," said Christophe Martin. "Detached from daylight and their surroundings, visitors find themselves here in a completely different universe – in the world of Yves Saint Laurent." As an eye-catcher in the entrance, the famous "Robe Mondrian" from 1965, accented with two Optec LED contour spotlights, appears to float towards the visitors from the depths of darkness. The dress with its geometry and color design is akin to an exclamation mark within the black box. The 50 models exhibited on mannequins here are displayed in thematic groups that serve to illustrate the most important subjects of Saint Laurent's creative oeuvre. Textures, embroideries, flounces and the draped textile plies of the robes are crisply and three-dimensionally enhanced thanks to accented lighting from the Optec contour spotlights – even those of the black gowns on black backgrounds.

Yves Saint Laurent Museum Marrakesh

Referencing Arabian architectural traditions, the introverted museum is accessed via artistically designed interior courtyards. Visitors enter the museum from the road side via a narrow corridor into the round patio displaying a dominantly presented YSL logo on a centrally inserted wall panel. Following the onset of twilight, the logo is effectively showcased by two Beamer projectors each equipped with 12W LED modules. Two Lightscan projectors installed at eaves height, one with neutral white light (4000K) and the other with warm white (3000K), create a soft moonlight effect on the museum's circular outside wall.

Yves Saint Laurent Museum Marrakesh

The key works of the creative genius Yves Saint Laurent are effectively illuminated and opulently staged in the black exhibition space.

This method of lighting that lends a sense of drama to the presentation underlines Christophe Martin's attachment to the world of theater. Following his architectural studies, he worked for over 12 years in close cooperation with the renowned American director, theater producer and video artist Robert Wilson on stage setting for the opera and theater. High visual comfort is exceedingly important, not just for visitors to operas and theaters but also for museum visitors. The highly precise ERCO LED lighting technology enables such high levels of visual comfort within this exhibition and also avoids any form of glare. "For me, light is the most important building block in any scenography," explained Christophe Martin.
"This perfect illumination of individual exhibits within an exhibition is essential for the impact of the complete presentation."

Yves Saint Laurent Museum Marrakesh

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