Twenty years ago, on 27 April 2001, the Licht-Kunst-Speicherstadt association was established in Hamburg. Its initiators thus laid the foundation that brought the impressive ensemble of red-brick buildings – now a UNESCO World Heritage Site – out of the shadows into the spotlight every evening. Without the association and the private-sector involvement of its members, the Speicherstadt historical warehouse district would not be illuminated.
This has been made possible by the Licht-Kunst-Speicherstadt association, which was established in 2001 by companies and private individuals as part of a joint initiative with the Senate of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA). The approximately 50 members as well as sponsors and partners created conditions to make the Speicherstadt an illuminated eye-catcher every evening. To enable this, the association has invested more than € 1 million in recent years in funding raised entirely from donations and sponsorship activities.
Dr. Carsten Brosda, Minister for Culture and Media in Hamburg: “It should not be taken for granted that the Speicherstadt, a World Heritage Site, is lit up for us all. With the establishment of the Licht-Kunst-Speicherstadt association exactly 20 years ago, this exceptional place was finally brought into the spotlight. To no small extent, we owe this success to the outstanding involvement of citizens. Under the artistic stewardship of Michael Batz, our World Heritage Site will continue to be transformed into art through light, will be accessible to everyone and will even operate on a carbon-neutral basis. It is a treasured and charming symbol of Hamburg.”
Some 1,200 lights are installed today on the warehouse blocks and bridges between Oberhafen and Baumwall. From dusk until shortly after midnight, they transform much of the area into an illuminated work of art, designed by renowned Hamburg light artist Michael Batz: “The Speicherstadt is exemplary in every way. Its artistic illumination represented the breakthrough of contemporary light design in public spaces in Hamburg. The town hall, the museum Hamburger Kunsthalle, the theatre Deutsches Schauspielhaus and many other projects have become directly involved with this language of light. It’s a Hamburg success story that continues even after 20 years,” says Batz.
The illumination is particularly attractive during the dark months of the year, when the soft, indirect light brings out the historic character of the ensemble of buildings and provides an atmospheric setting for the neo-Gothic façades with an interplay between light and shadow. Guided twilight tours through the streets and inner courtyards of the Speicherstadt are popular, as are trips through the canals on barges at dusk.
The association has kept up with the times since it was established. From the outset, the non-profit organisation practised sustainability when implementing the light art project. “We started out with lights that had extremely low power consumption. Ten years later, we retrofitted the illumination system with energy-efficient, low-maintenance and durable LED lights. Then in 2019, we switched to green energy,” says Dr. Roland Lappin, Chairman of the Licht-Kunst-Speicherstadt association. As a result, the light art project operates on a completely carbon-neutral basis today, explains Lappin, who is also HHLA’s Executive Board Member responsible for Finance and the Real Estate segment. HHLA’s careful and sustainable management of the Speicherstadt has transformed it from the world’s biggest warehouse complex into a vibrant urban district, he adds.
The Licht-Kunst-Speicherstadt association has plenty in store for the future. It aims to expand its group of supporters so that further projects can be undertaken. Additional buildings in the Speicherstadt are to be illuminated by 2025, the ten-year anniversary of its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Some 75 percent of them are lit up at present, particularly those with façades along the canals and buildings facing the city. These will now be joined by the warehouses facing HafenCity, most of which are not currently illuminated.
Further information about the Licht-Kunst-Speicherstadt association can be found at