Since last night, the so-called town hall of the Speicherstadt historical warehouse district, located at Bei St. Annen 1, shines bright in the evening hours. This illumination marks another light art milestone for the impressive ensemble of red-brick buildings of the Speicherstadt, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2015.
The initiative to bathe the buildings and bridges in a soft light throughout the night was first presented 20 years ago by the now internationally renowned Licht-Kunst-Speicherstadt project. Light artist Michael Batz, sponsors from the private sector and members of the Licht-Kunst-Speicherstadt association are now pursuing the goal of completing the entire work of art by 2025. To get more investors on board, a platform for donations has been created. In connection with a virtual model of the Speicherstadt soon to be accessible, the platform will enable visitors to experience the Speicherstadt online and through an app, and give them the opportunity to get involved in the project and to become a permanent part of this bright attraction even through the smallest of donations – allowing them to decide which particular lights should be installed.
The Speicherstadt historical warehouse district is one of Hamburg’s best-known attractions and a magnet for locals and visitors alike – and for 20 years now also in the evening hours. 20 years ago, the red-brick façades of the warehouses and traditional office (kontor) buildings as well as the numerous bridges were first illuminated with soft light in the evening hours. Since then, indirect light brings out the character of the ensemble of buildings and provides an impressive setting for the neo-Gothic façades with an interplay between light and shadow. Accordingly, guided twilight tours through the streets and inner courtyards of the Speicherstadt as well as trips though the canals on barges at dusk are popular, also during the dark months of the year when the illumination is most impressive.
Thanks are owed in particular to the work of the Licht-Kunst-Speicherstadt e. V. association, which was founded by companies and private individuals as part of a joint initiative with the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg in 2001. The roughly 50 members, alongside sponsors and partners, create the organisational framework so that the Speicherstadt no longer spends its evenings in the dark. In recent years, the association invested more than € 1 million, which was financed exclusively by donations and money from sponsors.
These days, some 1,200 lights are installed on the warehouse blocks and bridges between Oberhafen and Baumwall, turning roughly half of the historical area into a bright work of art from sunset until shortly after midnight. The project was conceived by Hamburg light artist Michael Batz. “The Speicherstadt is exemplary in every way. Its artistic illumination represents the breakthrough of contemporary light design in public spaces in Hamburg. The town hall, the Hamburger Kunsthalle, the 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.
From the very beginning, the non-profit Licht-Kunst-Speicherstadt e. V. association has opted to use resources in a conservative way for the implementation of the light art project. “We started out with lights that had extremely low power consumption. Ten years later, we retrofitted the illumination system with durable LED lights that are even more energy-efficient and require less maintenance. Since 2019, the work of art has been powered exclusively by green electricity,” says Dr. Roland Lappin, one of the honorary members of the association’s executive board. As a result, the light art project operates on a completely carbon-neutral basis today, explains Lappin, who is also the member of the Executive Board of Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA) responsible for the labour-intensive ongoing maintenance of the warehouse network built on the water. Also thanks to HHLA’s careful and sustainable development of the buildings, the Speicherstadt has now transformed from the world’s biggest warehouse complex into a vibrant urban attraction.
Additional support is currently being sought with the goal of completing the work of art by the ten-year anniversary of its status as a UNESCO World Heritage site. A platform for donations has been set up on the website of the association (www.licht-kunst-speicherstadt.de) so that everyone now has the opportunity to participate in the work of art. A virtual model soon to be linked to the platform will allow visitors to experience the Speicherstadt historical warehouse district online and through an app and even to personally decide which light should be installed with each particular donation.