Light on Art: The Lighting Design Project of the Feuerle Collection in Berlin

A play of light and shadow defines the emotive and functional illumination of the Berlin museum

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Highlights

In the autumn of 2016, in Berlin, near the Kreuzberg district and a short distance from the picturesque Landwehrkanal, on the site of the long-gone Anhalter Bahnhof station (once a grand southern entrance to the city), a pair of former telecommunication bunkers from World War II underwent a meticulous transformation, becoming the Feuerle Collection. This is the permanent home for the contemporary and ancient art collection of art historian Désiré Feuerle, a collector and art consultant for prestigious international collections of modern, contemporary, and Asian art.

1. Feurle Collection, Berlin - © ERCO GmbH/photography: Sebastian Mayer

A lover of Chinese imperial-era furnishings, Southeast Asian Kremer sculptures, and works by international contemporary artists, Feuerle is one of the most influential and discreet figures on the global art scene. The architectural features of the buildings, combined with the sophistication of the collection and the respectful architectural intervention by John Pawson, make this a unique place. In this setting, characterized by the dark, deep shadows of the rooms, light plays a leading role.

The “Magical” Architecture of the Feuerle Collection

Beyond purely technical measures, the architectural intervention focused on subtle refinements to enhance and intensify the place’s atmospheric quality. Instead of grand gestures, the work centred on perfect calibration of space, emphasizing separation thresholds, and a special staging.

2. Feurle Collection, Berlin - © ERCO GmbH/photography: Sebastian Mayer

In the basement of the former bunker, in total darkness and accompanied by a composition by John Cage, visitors experience the entrance ritual to the exhibition halls (Sound Room). This almost meditative moment creates a sharp contrast from the bustling outside world, preparing one’s senses and mind for the subsequent space and collection tour. From this point onward, precisely placed light guides visitors through the environments (Lake Room and Incense Room) and displayed artworks (Exhibition Room).

3. Feurle Collection, Berlin - © ERCO GmbH/photography: Sebastian Mayer

How Feuerle’s Accent Lighting Transforms Art and Space

The attention and intelligence inherent in the lighting design project direct its illuminating focus on the artworks, showing both a subtle intervention and a marked emphasis. The raw concrete walls, often characteristic of these architectural spaces, create sharp contrasts between the displayed piece and its surrounding background. However, to provide more intense and emotional luminous energy, the Lighting designer, represented here by Désiré Feuerle himself, taps into the power of accent lighting.

4. Feurle Collection, Berlin - © ERCO GmbH/photography: Sebastian Mayer

This sophisticated technique utilizes precise light beams, making the sculptures stand out as soloists in the exhibition environment. The expertly directed light imparts greater brilliance, highlighting the sculptures’ plastic profiles, and sparking an engaging play between light and shadow. This approach not only illuminates the artistic objects but also fosters an emotional dialogue between viewer and artwork, emphasizing details, shapes, and space, thus enhancing the strong sense of place.

5. Feurle Collection, Berlin - © ERCO GmbH/photography: Sebastian Mayer

Thanks to a delicate, non-invasive intervention and the subtle overall lighting of the exhibition rooms, the lighting system largely recedes into the background: a purely technical lighting project that nevertheless heightens the venue’s atmosphere and art appreciation. What remains etched in one’s memory is how these technical solutions transform the setting into a comfortable, captivating space for art appreciation. Here, light, as a tool for art, becomes exploration, experimentation, and above all, emotion.

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