After four years of design, planning, and construction, one of Europe’s most modern museums opened its doors on May 25th, 2019: the Goldkammer Frankfurt. In the middle of Frankfurt’s densely built Westend, the biggest architectural challenge was to showcase the fascinating world of gold in an extremely limited space. On a total of just 480 square meters, the Berlin based exhibition designers from merz merz created an expressive setting for more than 500 gold artefacts from the most varied eras of the past 6,000 years with a spectacular sequence of underground tunnels and treasure chambers. With an unobtrusive but emphatic display of the exhibits via integrated lighting elements, Licht Kunst Licht emphasizes the composition of this innovative exhibition concept.
(Image above) The foyer of the Goldkammer greets the visitor with a friendly, warm lighting atmosphere, made up of ceiling recesses and pendant luminaires specially designed for the museum.
Ceiling-integrated, small directional spotlights arranged in groups of three, together with the pendant luminaires, provide the lighting in the Aureus Café.
Architecturally, the Goldkammer Frankfurt is in many ways a special feature among the museum buildings in Europe. On one hand, it was clear even before the selection of the building, which exhibits should be displayed. On the other hand, the location for the museum was selected to be within a historically listed city villa in Frankfurt’s Westend, which due to the strict conservation regulations, restricted all the exhibition spaces to be underground. Ultimately, these architectural requirements enabled the Goldkammer to achieve its unique character. For the exhibits, a refined sequence of tunnels and treasure chambers under the earth’s surface has been created, while the above ground floors of the thoroughly refurbished building house the foyer with the ticket counter, a café day-bar and a restaurant.
The restaurant on the first floor is also illuminated with small directional downlights. A contemporary chandelier attracts attention without dominating the space.
Warm Welcome Above Ground
The entrance foyer welcomes visitors with a friendly and warm lighting atmosphere created by ceiling recesses filled with ceiling pendant lights, which were specially designed for the museum. With their narrow-beam light distribution, they produce a directional and brilliant light, which leads to the desired reflections and light patterns on the polished surfaces. Additionally, indirect cove lights trace the ceiling recesses and introduce a secondary, soft lighting component. All LEDs use a 3,000K white color temperature to emphasize both the predominantly deep blue wall colors as well as the warm-toned brass accents. As a precious metal similar to gold, brass was not only used as a surface material for the pendants, but was also used in the lighting component; like the mantle used in an old gas lantern, a cylindrically shaped fabric made of fine brass wire sits underneath the COB LED to catch the light and make it perceptible to the viewer as a gentle glowing body.
The subdued and dimly lit rooms at the beginning of the exhibition, the so-called Prologue, are reminiscent of mine tunnels and have walls of rough-cut natural stone.
A Lively Journey Under The Earth’s Surface
The journey to the underground exhibition rooms begins in the foyer and continues with a ride in an elevator with themed media screens, which creates the feeling of travelling deep below the earth’s surface. Slowing down and animating the ride gives the impression of being transported several hundred meters down into a mine tunnel. Once having arrived at the bottom, the contrast to the world above is immediately recognizable because of the extraordinary marble floors – both light and color are used only sparingly in the chambers. Four natural materials dominate the rooms: clay, bronze, marble, and stone. The multi-faceted world of gold opens up in many small exhibition spaces. Inspired by the Egyptians, the planners of merz merz have recreated the appearance of tomb rooms within the pyramids. A sophisticated distribution of light makes the exhibition spaces seem more spacious than they actually are. Concealed linear light profiles imitate incident daylight, while discreetly placed lighting accents create a mysterious and suspenseful atmosphere.
A showcase houses 4.6 billion years old meteorites. Its large, dynamic laminar lighting supports the 360-degree video projection, which simulates meteorite impact on Earth.
Setting the Mood in the Underground World of Gold
The beginning of the exhibition is dedicated to the question of how gold came to earth and how its underground deposits are mined, purified and then melted. The rooms remain dark and fitted with walls of rough-hewn natural stone. Dimmed light comes from explosion-proof lighting fixtures, which were placed along the corridor on the walls. The association with mine lighting is additionally reinforced by loose hanging cables with which the fixtures appear to be connected. In some locations, LED luminaires placed above the ceiling grille, similar to diffuse fluorescent lamps, supplement the general lighting and enhance the coarse, functional character of the rooms. A showcase houses 4.6 billion years old meteorites. Its laminar, dynamic lighting supports the room-filling 360-degree video projection that simulates the impact of meteorites on Earth.
Cool daylight seems to come out of the linear light fixtures concealed in the ceiling setbacks; The lighting of the exhibits is provided by spotlights with warm light color (2,700K).
Cool Daylight Effect with Warm-toned Exhibit Lighting
The main area of the museum is devoted to the topics of “Gold as Currency, Early Cultures and Jewelry”. The rooms are clad with rammed earth and their upward tapering room geometries and inclined loam plaster ceilings are reminiscent of the ancient Egyptian and Mayan pyramids. Ceiling setbacks incorporated into the room design house well-concealed linear light strips, which create the appearance of cool daylight pouring in. The spotlights for the exhibits, on the other hand, are equipped with 2,700K color temperature lamps to make the golden exhibits sparkle in warm, concentrated light. Ceiling-mounted lighting tracks accommodate the mostly grouped spotlights together with a linear downlight module for maintenance lighting. The arrangement of the track allows accessibility from all sides of the showcases, which are arranged symmetrically in the rooms. These are complemented by numerous wall-mounted showcases, each of which is fitted with a battery of very small, glare-free LED spotlights.
The only surviving gold bust of Licinius I is shown in a wall recess designed as a showcase. Linear lighting concealed on both sides creates the impression of a glowing band of light.
Light Strips as Visual Connection Elements
Two of the highlights of the exhibition – the only surviving gold bust of Licinius I and a precious gold mask from Colombia – are shown in two opposing chambers, linked by the exhibition space “Ancient Cultures”. In the back walls of each of these chambers is a vertical, tapered recess, which is designed as a display case, each housing one exhibit. Linear luminaires are concealed on both sides of the recess, creating the impression of a glowing band of light that visually connects the room ensemble by continuing in the form of a ceiling recess. The light band provides the required general lighting and at the same time forms the back wall lighting of the two wall mounted display cases. The direct lighting of the exhibits is carried out with spotlights that are not visible to the viewer.
Sunken Treasures in the Sea of Light
The gold treasures from the oceans are presented in an open, delicate blue atmosphere. The exhibits are placed in the middle of the room and surrounded by floor to ceiling glass panes. They serve not only as protection, but also as multimedia projection screens and information carriers. Historical model ships hovering above the exhibits indicate that you are under the water on the seabed; this impression is reinforced by a large-scale light installation with irregularly shaped rotating glass flasks. Transmitted by small halogen lamps, they project the effects of caustic light on the surfaces of the room, simulating the refraction behavior of the sun’s rays on the surface of water. Due to the constant movement of the mouth-blown glass flasks suspended from the ceiling and the superimposition of light reflections, the room is constantly changing shape. The general lighting from the ceiling integrated linear luminaires is supplied with several rich blue color filter foils and underscores the “underwater feeling”. Still, the exhibits gleam – as they deserve – in a warm, almost golden light.
Inspired by the Egyptians, the planners of merz merz recreated the appearance of the tomb rooms in the pyramids.
Light Supports the Digital Museum Concept
The underground journey of discovery through the world of gold is accompanied by numerous animated boards and videos designed by the media planners ART+COM from Berlin. Along a gold vein embedded in the ground, which runs through the entire exhibition, the visitor learns about the precious metal through various digital stations. Markers in the ground, which are emphasized by very narrow-beam ceiling recessed spotlights, reveal information when scanned with the smartphone. In addition, a total of 18 gobo projectors are used to project informational texts onto the respective rooms walls. The projectors are hidden in the false ceiling and display the information through small, oval openings in the ceiling paneling onto the walls.
Client: Pacelli Immobilien- und Liegenschaftsverwaltung GmbH, Munich
User: Goldkammer Frankfurt GmbH
Architect: AS + P Albert Speer + Partner GmbH, Frankfurt am Main
Exhibition design: merz merz gmbh & co. kg, Berlin
Lighting design: Licht Kunst Licht AG, Bonn / Berlin
Project leader: Konstantin Klaas
Project team: Edwin Smida, Nils von Leesen, Andreas Schulz
Lighting Design Rothschild Collection: Pfarré Lighting Design, Munich
Media Design: ART + COM AG, Berlin
Electrical planning: Speidel GmbH Frankfurt branch
Photos: Marcus Ebener
Manufacturers and Lighting Products
Bergmeister: Special pendant luminaire
Moooi: Mechmatics chandelier
Bega: Studio Line surface downlight
iGuzzini: Laser downlight
Ledlinear: Xooline cove lighting
XAL: Move-it and Nano systems
DGA: Tono and Brio recessed spotlights
Ledlinear: Xooline LED strips, cove lighting
Bergmeister: Canna bollards and mast lights
Bergmeister: Abadia wall sconce
Filix: RDD60 recessed floor spotlight
Effect and special lights:
Lobmeyr: Ripple water effect light
Rosco: Image Spot Gobo Projector