A light column that earns its name both by day and by night adorns the newly designed station forecourt in Lüdenscheid. The precision work required to complete it came about through constant dialogue with the designing architects.
A 7.5m high light sculpture, the “Lichtfaltung”, which RSL constructed for the station forecourt in Lüdenscheid on the basis of a design by LHVH Architekten, Cologne, is a sure talking point. On a small, triangular ground plan the white column of light elevates itself on four different planes each with six triangular faces, some opaque, some translucent, and (quite literally) highly tensioned, welcoming visitors to the “town of light” with this very synonym. The triangular shapes shift from one plane to another by 180° on the longitudinal axis. Minimally jointed glass panes alternate with sheet plates, which are edged in one piece to their concave-convex shapes.
In the design phase the architects, who have been experimenting with light since their student days, had grappled with the ideas of an illuminated object and a non-electrified column. The light column in its current form is a combination of these two design ideas. By day the highly geometric matt-white object is brought alive solely by the dynamics of light and shade that depend on daylight, providing a fascinating arena for the vertical surfaces that have been “folded” into triangles. In darkness the “Lichtfaltung” sculpture, backlit by fluorescent tubes, is transformed into a fragilelooking structure, with its almost one ton in weight seeming to hover above the ground. What appears to be easy and a matter ofcourse in the eye of the observer who is unfamiliar with the industry rightly throws up both constructional and economic questions amongst the professionals. How was stability achieved, how did the precision of the joint structure come about between the large-scale, strain-generating surfaces made of horizontally alternating glass and aluminium, and how much greater than estimated were the costs incurred in the extremely precise implementation of the project?
“Constant self-criticism is the path to perfection and all advances.” Kurt Schwitters
This new landmark cost the town of Lüdenscheid exactly 48,000 euro. No more, no less than prescribed by the budget. That there was no deviation from the budget was clearly due to the above-average commitment of the architects and custom lighting experts. No expense was spared in order to turn the design into an aesthetic construct down to the smallest detail. “Some of the processes were very tricky”, sums up architect Jens Voss. His office partner Frank Holschbach continues: “From the models that RSL built after the initial discussion we could already see what we would have to watch out for in the design of the column. Then together we gave some thought to how we could tackle the problem of edging the sheets neatly. And how, in this connection, to deal with the thickness of the material so that it is no longer noticeable. In the case of the laminated glass system we are after all talking of 12 mm.”
“I am totally obsessed with details.” Jens Voss
In order to stabilise the design, but also to eliminate the joint tolerances on the outer shell, a 244mm thick, hot-dip galvanised, cylindrical steel tube was installed in the cavity of the sculpture with three-axle point fittings which are both vertically and horizontally adjustable. This meant that perfectly neat joints could be created between the aluminium sheets and the glass panes. “I am totally obsessed with details”, admits Jens Voss. “The people at RSL definitely had to hold back their irritation many a time, but they always gave their all and made their system development available to us as well as their precision work, so that we were able to implement our ideas in full. First and foremost they always understood what we meant from our point of view as architects. Frictionless communication with regard to content cannot be taken for granted in our profession”, concludes the LHVH office partner. The construction of custom lighting that is not only unusual, but also of particularly large dimensions, is part of RSL’s core business.
However, the problem in this instance was that RSL cannot edge sheets which are over four metres in length in its own facilities. But the mathematical formula for doubling the surface area from plane to plane could not be changed under any circumstances since sheets of this length were needed in order to achieve the required result. “Changing it would have interfered with the carefully calculated proportions of the Lichtfaltung sculpture”, says Dirk Alheit. “Neither was there, of course, any question of dividing the aluminium sheet in two. So we contracted this work out”, the project manager at RSL explains. “We have an excellent network here in this area, and have for many years been working with partner companies who are flexible, quick and reliable. This means that we were also able to implement this idea of the architects swiftly and to perfection.”
Back at RSL itself the sheets subsequently had to be polished and painted several times in order to level out the deformations in the 3mm thick material that had formed due to the production methods used when the fixing points for the point fittings were welded on. The final stage in the sheet metal processing was the laser-cutting of the letters, which had to shine legibly in the dark. For the lettering on the glass elements, which are made of laminated safety glass with a backing of matt film, a black overprint was selected into which various lockable, barely noticeable maintenance openings were incorporated.
Six weeks after the contract was awarded the work had already been completed and the articulated lorry was rolling on its way from Sankt Augustin to Lüdenscheid. A crane supplied by RSL heaved the Lichtfaltung sculpture weighing nearly 1 ton into place, where it now serves unmistakably as a new landmark, promoting Lüdenscheid’s self-image as the “town of light”. No detail of the Lichtfaltung light sculpture betrays how many planning stages and how much development work and flexibility on the part of the architects and the custom lighting manufacturer were necessary to achieve this aesthetic solution whilst adhering to the economic framework conditions. That is part of its own self-image.
PHOTOGRAPHY: HG ESCH