Under Open Sky
The Landesmuseum in Hanover is the largest state museum in Lower Saxony. Also called the “Worlds Museum”, the art institution is divided into three thematic areas: Natural Worlds, Human Worlds and Art Worlds. The latter is located on the second floor, which is linked together by skylights. These daylight halls are an important identifying feature of the state museum, which was planned by the architect Hubert Oswald Ludwig Stier and completed in 1902.
During the Second World War, some roofs were destroyed and had to be rebuilt after the end of the war. Over the decades, increasing problems arose with the roof structures. In some cases, water leaked into the exhibition space, and in other cases, moisture from condensation arose due to an excessive temperature difference and dirt deposits formed in the intermediate ceiling, which led to the necessity of difficult and frequent maintenance. Half of the glass roofs had to be whitewashed annually to reduce light and energy infiltration. Nevertheless, temperatures inside reached up to 30°C on summer days and the valuable exhibits were overexposed. A feasibility study showed that closing the roofs was the best option due to the weak points in the building structure that occurred – even if this meant excluding daylight.
At this point, Studio DL was called in as a specialist planner for the artificial lighting. Based on the inventory, construction and usage history, it was decided to return to the room quality created by Hubert Stier. The suspended track lighting that dominated the room before the renovation was removed, and the room heights of some halls were restored to their original dimensions. This removed all extraneous elements from the user’s perspective and returned the focus to the architectural qualities of the ceiling. The key point of the lighting design was to retain the original characteristics of a room filled with daylight. The visitor should have the feeling of viewing art history in the open air. With this in mind, the design team studied the effect on the art, the visitor, and the spatial aesthetics from daylight ceilings in order to come up with the best possible solution for the State Museum. Daylight ceilings are not uniform in light color by nature, so warm as well as cool color temperatures can be perceived throughout the day. In addition, most luminous ceilings create a sense of depth that makes it easy to sense the space and construction behind the glass inserts.
Studio DL constructed several full-scale samples of the illuminated ceiling and tested them in the lighting laboratory to find the best choice of material and composition to achieve the best spatial effect. Subsequently, with the two final variants selected, a large 1:1 mock-up was carried out in the museum with curators and all other project participants. Together, the qualities of the mock-ups were assessed and light measurements were taken on the artworks. The choice was made for a luminous ceiling variant with an iridescent blue effect. Depending on the viewer’s perspective, a different impression of the ceiling in various shades of blue is created. This innovative solution makes every viewing angle unique.
In order to evaluate the damage potential of the new lighting due to the bluish appearance, Studio DL carried out spectral measurements and analyses. These showed that there was no more damaging effect on the artworks compared to conventional skylight ceilings. Soft cove lighting completes the overall appearance of the ceiling. This significantly reduces the contrast between the luminous ceiling surface and the darker walls that form the room.
Thanks to detailed analyses and conscientious design understanding, the lighting quality in the State Museum was brought to a new level in an interdisciplinary collaboration without losing its traditional character. This created a lighting and spatial image that was suitable for the high-quality paintings. The first construction phase was completed in 2021, the remaining sections are currently being implemented.