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Tjark Ihmels spacetunnel of form and light transforms the central station into an illuminated playground and makes you forget the rush of everyday life. Photo © Messe Frankfurt,
Tjark Ihmels FH Mainz
Urban beacons
by Sara Bertsche
2/19/2014

First held in 2002, the “Urban Light Festival” takes up the themes addressed by the fair and interprets them quite poetically in the form of countless light spectacles. In this way, artists, architects and light planners transform the city into a brightly lit playing field: Bridges, banks, parks not to mention spaces long since forgotten all appear quite literally in a new light – for a few short days the city morphs into a place where the everyday perception of our urban environment gets suspended. The festival, which has since been emulated by many, leaves its mark on Frankfurt well after it has ended, and helps move urban development here forward. A prime example: In 2004 the entire banks of the Main were illuminated, one of the largest lighting projects in Europe, and this has since evolved into a permanent installation.

A decade later, one key Luminale theme will be its expansion towards Frankfurt’s east end. It thus comes as no surprise that one of this year’s hotspots among the 180-odd projects in Frankfurt and Offenbach will be the new Osthafenbrücke.

The Luminale 2014 officially opens on Sunday, March 30, on Börsenplatz – and will no doubt surprise the inquisitive visitor with an impressive illumination of the IHK building. While the Luminale pre-opening takes place the day before. In cooperation with Deutsches Architekturmuseum, Museum Angewandte Kunst will host a Pecha Kucha Night – an event that last year proved highly popular, attracting some 800 guests.

Today, Stylepark is proud to present the Luminale’s Top Ten – selected and described by Helmut Bien, the curator of the festival of light.

Looking eastwards

Offenbach will be the venue of about 30 projects in the context of the Luminale, all concerning themselves with the topic of light. Especially worthy of mention is the port complex, which is undergoing rapid urban development to become the future home of the University of Art and Design as well as the adjacent Heyne-Fabrik, which has for some time now acted as a creative melting pot for ad and fashion agencies. “A lot’s going on in Offenbach! And that’s also reflected in the Luminale. It’ll be well worth a visit!” comments Helmut Bien.

Moreover, the recently opened Osthafenbrücke will be closed to traffic during the light festival and will be a real visitor magnet: “From the Osthafenbrücke you get a fantastic view of Frankfurt’s skyline and other Luminale projects; it’s a must for photographers!”

Another highlight will be the new opening of Kunstverein Familie Montez in the modernized arches of the Honsellbrücke arches: “The exhibition curated by Mirek Macke with international light artists promises to be one of the Luminale’s highpoints.”

Furthermore, cologne-based architect and urban planner Jochen Siegemund will turn the Mainova Umspannwerk into a 3D light installation: “The LED installation is destined to symbolize the energy flows in the grid, and will presumably be retained as a permanent show.”

A little further in the northeast, the Naxoshalle along with Theater Willy Praml, a Frankfurt institution, will for the first time provide an ideal stage during the Luminale for experimental light design, installations and interventions – mostly by foreign artists. Helmut Bien believes, and this is an inside tip, that “with its exciting light stagings, a café and a lecture theater, the Naxohalle is bound to become the unofficial heart of the Luminale.”

In the midst of amorphous bodies of light

At Rossmarkt in downtown Frankfurt, all eyes will be on “Orchestrating the Depth of light” an interactive sculpture that is currently being created by students from Frankfurt’s Städel Academy together with Vienna’s Media Architecture Institute: “Parallel to this, the Städel academy will host a symposium on ‘Media Architecture’. Definitely a must!”

At Weißfrauenkirche there’ll be an extensive interactive installation by the experimental artists group RaumZeitPiraten: “Anyone who likes the works of Tinguely or Fischli/Weiss, is bound to love it!”

On Großer Hirschgraben, which will be the future location of Deutsches Romantik Museum Frankfurt, various artists will be presenting projections and light installations – under the collective title of “tiptoexpress”.

Not to forget that Frankfurt’s Municipal Planning Office will be organizing its very own Luminale exhibition, showcasing exemplary development projects such as the illumination of the riverside initiated in 2004 as part of the festival of light.

All new on the Western front

The frontage of the main railway station, which has for years been the center of Frankfurt’s most colorful and most diverse quarter, will gleam in a new light in the illumination created by Christian Uitz for the iGuzzini company. Entitled “re:connect-reflekt”, there will also be countless installations in the main railway station, curated by Tjark Ihmels, director of Institut für Mediengestaltung and his team from the University of Applied Sciences Mainz: “The main railway station with its central position as the gateway to the city must firm a part of the Luminale. The city has just resolved to redesign the station forecourt – the Illumination of the façade can mark the symbolic launch of the measure which is so important for Frankfurt.”

Further to the west, Frankfurt’s green oasis, the Palmengarten botanics, has in recent years emerged as one of the Luminale’s most popular venues. And this year, the outdoor areas will again set the scene for various artists to present their experimental ideas.

Running lights on the water

For the duration of the Luminale a ship will moor on the banks of the River Main in Frankfurt level with Hohlbeinsteg – on board you can witness a/v installations by Professor Klaus Teltenkötter in cooperation with Zumtobel: “No doubt the performance by Frankfurt’s Ensemble Modern will mark the climax of the superlative concert program on the ship, as it’s one of the world’s most famous ensembles for contemporary music.”

There are great expectations of this year’s Luminale. And there’s already a superb service in place for visitors: During the fair there’ll be a dedicated shuttle bus running between the different venues: “I’d also like to highlight the guided Luminale tours by world architects and the “KLIMAtours” offered by the City of Frankfurt’s Energy Desk – to selected projects relating to the “Green City”.” is Helmut Bien’s final recommendation.

Download complete Luminale program

Once an ambitious project of the Luminale, the illumination of the river Main exists permanently since 2004. Photo © Messe Frankfurt, Jochen Günther
The lights of the harbor industry: Installations at the Mainufer in Höchst revives forgotten places. Photo © Messe Frankfurt, Trilux
Creating images by using live projections: A preview of the performance by “Kopffarben” at the Naxoshalle. Photo © Messe Frankfurt, Kopffarben
A light window in the publicspace: A.P.Englert presents a projection at the Historical Museum. Photo © Messe Frankfurt, Alexander P.Englert
Shadow art of giants: During the Luminale the bank buildings of Frankfurt are used as projection screens for light designers. Photo © Messe Frankfurt, Sounds of Silence
Amorphous lightcaterpillar on the Rossmarkt: Fantasies of the Städel students. Photo © Messe Frankfurt, Städelschule und Media Architecture Institute Wien
This new dress fits him well!. The renovated facade of Central Station is a hotspot of Luminale. Photo © Messe Frankfurt, Christian Uitz für iGuzzini
Floral art worlds are pervading the sacral space: Light installation at the Weißfrauenkirche.
Photo © Messe Frankfurt, Florale Kunstwelten
Phosphorescent reflections on the water: Installation of the Luminauten in the Palmengarten. Photo © Messe Frankfurt, Luminauten