Domsuehl / DPA
“Colours are trendy. ” So goes the succinct explanation of Michael Gronwald, a 47-year-old light-show artist in the northeastern German state of Brandenburg.
With about 30 other “bright guys,” his company are – literally – in charge of the visual highlights at events, rock festivals and city festivities all around Germany.
In Parchim, 150 kilometres northwest of Berlin, a “beacon” of the large-scale illumination trade is the lighting and decoration fair LUDA – a German acronym for “light in the darkness” – during which the small town is bathed in a riot of colour.
The lighting shows require upwards of 600 light bulbs, as well as 12 kilometres of electricity cables.
At the last such show in December, 30 buildings and squares were artfully decorated and then illuminated to draw out the best effects.
It takes a good week to build, and again to later dismantle, this kind of large-scale installation made up of textiles, glass, metals, beacons, lights, lasers, video-beamers and the energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Any yet, it’s worth the effort, says co-founder Matthias Dehn: “We make the world a bit more colourful.”
The trio of founders work in an old barn in the village of Domsuehl that they converted into a workshop to design and try out new illumination ideas and techniques. Here, they electrically strengthen slide projectors to as high as 1,000 watts and build their own mechanical gadgets to create new plays of colours and special effects.
Gronwald stresses that plain old white light is not their thing. “The aim is to create an atmosphere with everything at your disposal. It’s the artistic aspect that counts.”
A variety of colours is not only meant for buildings, but can also be applied out in nature – on trees, bushes, the edges of a forest. Facades can be “painted” and paths and squares bathed in a stream of light. Gronwald admits to one dream – one day being allowed to do a light projection on Germany’s large historical buildings.
Amid the scenic effects of such light displays, scientists say that there are beneficial effects for humans in today’s modern lighting in cities and residential areas.
At Wismar College in the Baltic Sea coastal city of Wismar, a master’s degree course is offered in the area of “Architectural Lighting Design” where research is conducted in future lighting technologies.
It is the only course of its kind in Germany. The Wismar light designers agree that LED is a quantum leap, permitting diode illumination where colours and intensity can be guided by computer.
According to Britta Hoelzemann of the German Light Technology Society in Berlin, a sophisticated system of outdoor illumination is important for peoples’ sense of well-being in the dark time of the year.
“City marketing with lighting is a worldwide trend,” she says. “It is simple to generate attention with light.”
This does not mean that everything has to be loudly brilliant. The main thing is that a city, its sidewalks and squares, or for that matter also a town, is lit up at night to give it more life and make it more attractive,” Hoelzemann adds, even though it can cost more. “Safety comes before saving electricity.”