(“Royal Hall” with the Nibelungen centerpiece in the centre of the space, Ludwig von Schwanthaler, bronze, gilded, 1842-44. Wittelsbacher Ausgleichsfonds, Munich. Adding to the diffuse ambient lighting, ceiling integrated adjustable downlights cast brilliant light onto the exhibits.)

The Museum of the Bavarian Kings in Hohenschwangau was converted by Staab Architekten and opened its doors in autumn 2011. Yearly, 200.000 visitors are expected who can learn about the history of the Wittelsbach Dynasty from its beginning to the present. The 1.000 sqm exhibition space extends over a multifaceted spatial structure of Old and New in a prominent setting. For this museum, the office Licht Kunst Licht has planned a lighting concept, which satisfies the various functional requirements, impressively stages the exhibition and essentially shapes the identity of the building

(“Royal Hall” The five figures of the Nibelungen centrepiece, Ludwig von Schwanthaler, bronze, gilded, 1842-44. Wittelsbacher Ausgleichsfonds, Munich. At the right of the picture: Cups and vases, Royal Bavarian porcelain manufacture, middle of the 19th century. Wittelsbacher Ausgleichsfonds, Munich)

The Museum of the Bavarian Kings is located at the shore of Lake Alpsee, below the Royal Castles Neuschwanstein und Hohenschwangau, and occupies a building ensemble that is more than 100 years old. For the new use as museum, the existing structure has been refurbished and artfully extended by an additional building volume. The historical building fabric looks upon an eventful history. In 1832, Crown Prince Maximilian (1848 King Maximilian II) had the Castle ruin Hohenschwangau converted as royal summer residence. With the Royal Court, the first hotels were established; in particular during the royal hunts additional accommodation was needed, in which especially the royal guests with their noble entourage were adequately housed. In 1858, the guesthouse “Gasthof zur Alpenrose” at Lake Alpsee was first mentioned in a document. It was established in the building of the “Neues Bräuhaus“ (“New Brewery”), which has been built here around 1780. With the opening of Castle Neuschwanstein after Ludwig II. had died, the first hotel building was put up on the basement vaults of the old brewery in 1889 instead of the guesthouse. This building had been expanded by a second, opulent part with terraces and balconies, right at the shore of Lake Alpsee. Not least due to its beautiful setting, it became one of the first houses on the spot.

(Museum of the Bavarian Kings: Night illumination visible from afar, the architecture integrated illumination shapes the identity of the building.)

Since 1924 the building belongs to the properties of the Wittelsbacher Ausgleichsfond (Wittelsbach Compensation Fund). In coordination with the monument conservation the building has been converted into the Museum of the Bavarian Kings with a museum café and restaurant.

A careful handling of the listed historical building structure and the bold addition of a barrel vault with three naves have created museum spaces, that take the visitor by surprise by virtue of their very distinct characteristics. In the foyer, one can stroll underneath a historical coffered ceiling and breath in the original opulent Art Nouveau decorations in the palm garden. Underneath the bright canopy of the newly constructed vaults, one can explore the family tree of the Wittelsbacher and the built ideals of the Bavarian kingdom, whilst galleries with ceiling-high glazings allow for magnificent views across the lake and mountains as well as direct reference to the Royal Castles Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau. The exhibition section located in the historical Jägerhof, however, uses the existing spaces as exhibition cabinets. Merely the non-load bearing walls were removed in coordination with the monument preservation and the existing building structure was refurbished.

(The museum foyer (former dining room of the hotel) The existing historical chandeliers were technically revised and equipped with halogen lamps.)

Brilliant Welcome in the Foyer

The museum is accessed via the centrally located entrance hall, the former dining hall of the Hotel Alpenrose. Through the large window front, the spacious entrance is pervaded by daylight. The light-coloured terrazzo flooring, the refurbished coffered ceiling as well as the white walls create a light overall impression. During the evening hours, the visitor is welcomed by a brilliant lighting atmosphere. Therefore, the existing historical chandeliers were technically revised and equipped with halogen lamps.

Adjacent to the far end of the foyer, a side foyer with cloakrooms and sanitary facilities are located. Ceiling integrated downlights, equipped with halogen light sources, continue the atmosphere of the main foyer in this building section. At the same time, the side foyer serves as access to the palm house.

(View from the shore of Lake Alpsee to the Museum of the Bavarian Kings; in the background Castle Neuschwanstein.)

Three lighting components for various uses

The palm house has been built according to the requirements of exotic plants and is naturally lit by an attic window and a skylight element at the zenith. In compliance with its present-day uses as event space or backdrop for temporary exhibitions, a flexible illumination was demanded here.

Floor standing luminaires, which can be repositioned freely within the space depending on the event, subtly fade in the spatial boundaries. Moreover, the adorned glass ceiling elements are backlit. The combination of both lighting components creates an atmospherical ambient lighting. If accentuating light is needed, e.g. in case of exhibitions, a 3-phase-track tracing the outline of the skylight, accommodates appropriate projectors.

(Staircase leading to the exhibition Linear LED profiles integrated into the handrail of the stair cast directional light onto the tread.)

The Way Up

A staircase located in the main foyer serves as access to the permanent exhibition at the first floor underneath the newly built barrel vault with three naves. Completely clad with dark brown Corian, it creates a dramatic contrast to the light-flooded main hall with its two side aisles at the end of the stairway. In order to not disturb this effect, linear LED profiles integrated into the handrail of the stair cast directional light onto the tread.

Elegant Statics, Fulminant Effect

In designing the museum extension by adding a new storey on top of the historical dining room it was important to the office Staab Architekten to establish a supporting structure stretching between the gable walls, in order to keep the foyer hall free from constructive elements. This was achieved by the implementation of three vaults in steel construction, which are supported by only four bearing points. This solution allows for three column-free spaces, running parallel to the façade like a central nave with two aisles.

In the central exhibition space, solely lit by artificial light, the curators have established the “Hall of the Royal Castles”. With large-sized photographic displays and resplendent exhibits, the presentation is dedicated to the Royal Castles Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein as well as their originators, King Maximilian II. and King Ludwig II.. The architecture-integrated lighting solution creates an appropriate setting for the exhibition as the entire vault is carried out as a luminous ceiling.

After a series of model experiments and mock-ups, the lighting designers from Licht Kunst Licht have found a solution, which on the on hand preserves the diamond-shaped coffered layout of the steel construction with its design reference to the existing ceiling in the foyer and, on the other hand keeps the room-facing ceiling surface free from technical installations: A curved acrylic glass panel with LED backlighting elements is fit into each coffer. The LED is mounted in each diamond between the steel ribs and distributes a subtle corona on the acrylic glass cover.

In selected ceiling fields, additional projectors have been placed behind the cover in order to emphasise particular exhibits with directional accent lighting. The projectors are adjustable and therefore their lighting characteristic can adapt to modifications of the exhibition layout. The acrylic glass panels form a unit with the LED modules and the projectors, which can be easily dismantled and reinserted for maintenance purposes.

(Panoramic view across Lake Alpsee in evening ambience. The interior lighting elements in the ceiling are subtly mirrored in the glazing and create a pleasant play of visual layers.)

Open View onto Castles, Mountains and Lake

The luminous ceiling is continued in the two narrower aisle vaults. Here, however, it only stretches from the rearward ceiling boundary to the key stone of the vault; from this point downwards till floor level, glass façades offer magnificent views onto the surrounding landscape. The galleries with varying widths – wider ones at the back of the building, smaller ones towards the lakeside and Castle Hohenschwangau – invite to stay and linger and offer incomparable panoramas.

(View into the “Walk-in family tree” A curved acrylic glass panel with LED backlighting elements is fit into each coffer. The LED is mounted in each diamond between the steel ribs and distributes a subtle corona on the acrylic glass cover)

Walk-in Family Tree

The laminated glass of the rearward front serves as display for a walk-in family tree of the Wittelsbach family. In order to adequately present the images and texts which are directly printed onto the glass surface, these are illuminated by a LED grazing light channel recessed in the bottom edge between the panes. A sun protection material, applied in the gap between the panes, offers an additional reflective surface for the LED light.

The gallery with magnificent view onto Lake Alpsee and Castle Hohenschwangau serves contemplation. From here, the visitor reaches further exhibition spaces in the so called Jägerhaus (hunters’ lodge) of the former hotel Alpenrose.

(The Bavarian Kings‘ tableware Royal Bavarian porcelain manufacture, shape “Perl”, adorned with blue and gold, 1918. At the front wall the portraits of King Ludwig III. and Queen Mary Therese of Bavaria (Marie Therese von Bayern), Walther File, oil on canvas, 1914. Wittelsbacher Ausgleichsfonds, Munich)

 Information and Interaction in the Cabinets

The exhibition concept in the cabinets of the old building provides sensuous access to information and exhibits by means of contrast. Large-format, back-lit images, brilliantly illuminated showcases, interactive screens and projections are embedded in exhibition furniture made of dark brown Corian. The concept for the ambient lighting replies to this correlate of colourfulness against the dark background with unobtrusive modesty.

The daylight intake is limited by sun protection screens at the windows, the overall illumination is limited to a functional minimum level. The concentration of the visitors is clearly focussed on the space and presentation.

In this context, the light sources for the ambient lighting should remain invisible. A discreet result of this intention are luminaires, which have been slightly recessed in the lintels of the passages between the spaces. Each of these luminaires consists of two components: One LED, which casts its directional light onto the floor, and a fluorescent lamp with a powerful diffused light distribution. Both light sources can be switched and dimmed separately and their light output can be adjusted according to the requirements of the exhibition. Outside business hours, the fluorescent light serves as cleaning and sentinel light. The only luminaires that are not fully integrated in the room fabric are adjustable projectors on ceiling singlets. They are employed where in benefit of the exhibition scenography of the exhibition an additional accentuation is desired, respectively in those rooms where the furniture integrated illumination is not sufficient.

Future Modifications possible without any problems

The limitation of the visible lighting elements to only a few projectors creates an uncluttered ceiling. The exhibition design and its thoroughly composed colour concept remain uninterrupted by technical installations. In order to ensure flexibility beyond the present configuration, in all room ceilings vacant 1-phase-outlets are provided. Their quantity and position were carefully chosen, as the optimum between future design provisions and undisturbed spatial experience was demanded. Each of the outlets optionally accepts one dimmable projector. The power lines were designed and implemented in such a fashion as to allow for a post-occupancy installation of a 3-phase-track. Thus, the installation technology does not set limits when presentations are planned or spaces converted.

(solid bronze material is applied in the staircase and hallways of the historical building section.)

A Custom-designed Luminaire for the Old Staircase

First floor and ground floor in this historical building section are connected via an existing staircase. For the stairs and hallways in this area the lighting designers wished for a luminaire with a lighting effect and design, which would be in tune with the formal language of the old building. A direct/ indirect wall luminaire made of solid bronze material meets the above mentioned requirements. It provides for sufficient illuminance levels in the circulation zone, adds grazing light to the refurbished wall surfaces and pleasantly structures longer passages.

At the end of the gallery tour the visitor arrives at the museum shop. Here, a combination of wall washers and accent lights here illuminates the ceiling-high shelves with a product selection ranging from books, commodities, dining accessories and souvenirs with Royal references to Alprose tea.

(Panoramic view across Lake Alpsee in evening ambience. The interior lighting elements in the ceiling are subtly mirrored in the glazing and create a pleasant play of visual layers.)

Programm Booklet with Long-Distance Effect           

The exhibition concept for the Museum of the Bavarian Kings has been developed by the House of Bavarian History. The chairman of the Board of Trustees, Prof. Dr. Hermann Rumschöttel, former general manager of the Bavarian Archives, on the occasion of the opening, described the function of the museum with an apt allegory: “…to put it in the language of the theatre: First of all, this museum is a kind of explanatory programm booklet for the stagings Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein and their originators.”

He was spot-on with his statement, also in a figurative sense, because this programm booklet is quite present during a visit of both castles; from both viewpoints the new barrel roof of the museum can be seen. The architects were aware of this visual effect of the building and treated its roof as “fifth façade”. Therefore, the barrel structure is covered with metal slates in a colour scheme matching the existing tiled roof. The lighting concept does not limit itself to the building interior. The luminous ceiling with their geometrical grid of luminous dots unfold their stunning effect through the glazing of the galleries. They enrich the romantically charged landscape by a highlight and extend the invitation to all of us who would like to learn more about the history of one of Europe’s oldest dynasties after visiting the Royal Castles.

Honoured with Two Awards

The artistic attractiveness and the technical quality of the lighting solution have recently been officially recognized with the GE Edison Award of Excellence 2011. For the competition, annually announced by the Lighting  division of General Electrics, top-notch competitors have line up. The lighting design for the Museum of the Bavarian Kings could position itself among the three finalists. During the Lightfair in Las Vegas it was awarded with an Award of Excellence on May 8th 2012.

Moreover, the biennially awarded “Preis des Deutschen Stahlbaus” honours the Museum of the Bavarian Kings and decorates Staab Architekten for the building conversion with this year’s prize. The  judges commended the perfect synthesis of interpreting design and ingenious form determination. The new steel vault shells confidently play with the historical and heraldic patterns. The award giving event takes place on the Tag der Stahl.Architektur (Day of Steel Architecture) at the German Stahlbautag on October 19th 2012 in Aachen.


Project: Museum of the Bavarian Kings, Hohenschwangau

Client: Wittelsbacher Ausgleichsfonds, Munich
represented by Schlosshotel Lisl GmbH & Co.KG, Hohenschwangau

Architect reconstruction and extension, exhibition design:
Staab Architekten GmbH, Berlin

Lighting Design: Licht Kunst Licht AG, Bonn / Berlin
Team leader: Malte Simon B.A.
Project team: Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Andreas Schulz, Dipl.-Ing. Edwin Smida, Dipl.-Des. Thomas Möritz

Photos: Marcus Ebener, Berlin

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