Interview with Markus Gabler, w40 Architekten, Wiesbaden

“At w40 we don’t realise projects to generate a nice photo for a magazine, but for people”

w40 is an office for brand architecture. The architects from Wiesbaden have now realised a project that has been particularly close to their hearts: the upgrading of their own office – with LED light supplied by ERCO. We spoke to w40 founder Markus Gabler about light in a shop setting and in the office.

“The nature of today should be noticeable in our works. We want to design our projects out of the character of each task but according to our means in this period of time.” This is the architectural design approach which you promote on your website at What specifically does that mean for w40?
Markus Gabler: Our primary objective is to match the style of building to the clients’ needs, while keeping in mind the requirements of the space or the premises. We start each project by studying our clients, what makes up their identity, asking how they want to be perceived today, in 5 to 10 years, and in 30 years. Equal consideration must be given to topography and building laws, and to user navigation through a room. At w40 we don’t design projects to generate a nice photo for a magazine, but for people.

How does this approach affect your use of light?
Light plays an important role in our work. Combining natural light with artificial light to form a harmonious unit is a major challenge. High-quality and precise LED lighting technology is essential for each of our projects. This is where I work with our ERCO lighting consultant: As one of the few people who deals with light at a very high level, he not only explains which products are best suited for a project and what it will cost, but also the effect of light in a space. To think what ERCO light is able to achieve in terms of quality and appropriate to the relevant application – it really gives me goose bumps at times.

Oh, thank you.
This is why we make a point of stressing to each client that LED technology may be used by many manufacturers, but there are still huge differences.

What makes a good lighting concept that combines natural and artificial light optimally?
It is important, in the first instance, to look at the setting: How does the light shine into the building? How can I best avoid artificial light during the day? A very important factor is to use dimmable luminaires so the light sources produce a pleasant ambience suited to the relevant occasion in the evening – dinner or meeting, sales situation or display window at night.
Artificial light, on the other hand, can be used to create constantly new scenes. With the ERCO Spherolit lenses, for instance, I can highlight a wedding ring as easily as an evening gown or a running shoe, using just the light to engage the customer emotionally. And all that with a single spot!

Is it not just as easy to produce good light with conventional luminaires? What exactly, in your view, makes LED light the ideal solution?
Efficiency and durability, for a start. LED light is sustainable and technically brilliant. I opted for ERCO to illuminate our office because of the many and diverse possibilities of the LED luminaires.
The toilets in our office, for instance, are deliberately kept in dark grey – from floor to ceiling. This means you are in a completely dark room with white bathroom facilities. Therefore, we used an ERCO luminaire with 7W – and the room is now illuminated perfectly. You can see absolutely everything: yourself in the mirror, the washbasin, and the toilet. The rest recedes into the background. If we had used conventional luminaires, we would have needed 70W to 150W for that small space!

It is still a common prejudice that LED light is far too cold ...
LED light is not cold. You see – my office is equipped completely with warm white LEDs at 3000K – and we get many compliments for it.

You have a quote in large letters at the entrance to your office, which says, “We believe that brand design is about content, emotion and engagement”. What does that mean for your everyday work?
When you are an architect or interior designer working in the retail sector, you need to approach these tasks with great passion. The result must also stir emotions: Three-dimensional branding combines artwork, light and materials with the product to create a spatial experience. Be it for Nike or Lego: Every design needs to have a content-driven concept that appeals to the target group. And it must be updated regularly so as to keep the customers fascinated for the long term.

With the ERCO Spherolit lenses, for instance, I can highlight a wedding ring as easily as an evening gown or a running shoe, using just the light to engage the customer emotionally

Brand architecture is an exciting field for creative designers. What role does light play in shop architecture?
Regardless of the budget, the truth is, if a product is not properly illuminated, the customer will not feel drawn to it. If Nike launches a new football boot, it cannot just sit somewhere on a shelf, it must be accentuated precisely with a spot. The challenge is to bring home to the merchandiser, after finalising a store concept, that it is his or her job now to get the light exactly onto the product. There is no use in us doing it – the client, personally, must have understood the whole point of effective lighting for his brand.

How do you manage to promote yourself as brand w40?
With great diligence, flexibility and trust – which we reciprocate with the quality of our work. Our office premises are not covered with pictures of our projects, I don’t want to clutter them. But I am currently planning more typography on the walls to reflect the w40 philosophy.

Office design is increasingly about flexibility at the workplace. It must be a place for concentrated working, but also provide communicative space. How can these divergent requirements be aided by light?
With a sophisticated lighting design. Light can be used to emphasise different zones of the room so as to ensure good orientation and a pleasant ambience. The area of our office kitchen, where we all cook together, and the kitchen zone, where our team eats, is illuminated effectively using a lighting control system. So, too, the conference room: As long as there are design drawings on the table, the table must be illuminated brilliantly, whereas the uniform illumination of the wall creates a nice ambience. The light can also be dimmed as required, to emphasise the conference or dining table, or even to watch football together in the evening.

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