Tridonic has supplied LED light engines and LED drivers for the lighting in the new extension to the Kunsthalle Mannheim (Mannheim Museum of Modern Art). The system can be tailored to suit different requirements thanks to the controllable lighting panels in the ceiling and configurable spotlights which allow for a number of options from a black box to a white cube for the presentation of artwork.

Mannheim is known as the “city of squares” because of its ordered structure of blocks in a chessboard pattern. Architects Gerkan, Marg und Partner (gmp) took this pattern as the starting point for the design of the extension to the Kunsthalle Mannheim. For this new building they developed the concept of a “city within a city”. The space is therefore divided into smaller units with rectangular footprints, organised around a central element – a 22 metre high atrium. Thirteen galleries are interlinked by bridges, stairs and terraces. These cubes with their individual dimensions and proportions offer a total exhibition space of 3,600 square metres. Some open up to daylight from windows and glazing units, while other appear as introverted cabinets and halls. This means that the curators have a wide range of environments in which they can present all genres of artwork to best effect.
The various room situations and the fact that the rooms can be changed with partitions means that the lighting concept had to be particularly flexible. The lighting designers from a.g Licht met this challenge with a solution that is not only functional but also aesthetic. “We opted for lighting panels integrated in the ceiling”, said Daniel Walden, the man in charge of the project at a.g Licht. “We could then do without light sources as objects in the room, leaving the clear minimalist architecture of the cubes unimpaired. We used simulations to calculate the dimensions and placement of the ceiling panels so that we could achieve optimum illumination and the greatest possible freedom for the exhibition layouts.” A power rail into which spotlights can be installed for accent lighting and a ventilation strip provide the outlines of the lighting panels. Combining multiple functions in the rectangular form ensures that the ceiling remains pleasantly uncluttered.

The ceiling panels were designed and produced by Rentex. This specialist in light ceilings and walls used frames covered with translucent film to ensure homogeneous light in the exhibition rooms. “The laminated plastic film is lightweight, neutral in colour and has high transmittance. It has proven its worth as an excellent diffuser in many other lighting systems for museums and exhibition spaces”, said Uwe Jacob from Rentex. Collaboration between Rentex and Tridonic also has a good track record. Uwe Jacob added: “We have already completed a large number of projects using LED technology from Tridonic. The quality of this technology is evident in many different respects in the ceiling panels installed in the Kunsthalle Mannheim.”

Linear Tridonic LLE advanced LED light engines are installed in the light ceilings. The light engines are available in different lengths and with different luminous fluxes. This variety is important here because it offers the necessary flexibility for arranging the LED modules in the luminaire housings. “The client specified that the building systems in the suspended ceiling should be accessible via the luminaires. The frame with the film and the equipment carrier with the LED modules and LED drivers are hinged to reveal an inspection opening in the back wall of the luminaire housing”, explained Uwe Jacob. By combining 24 mm wide LED light engines of type LLE G4 in different lengths and different light outputs and with a colour temperature of 3,500 K, the equipment carriers could be populated so that the light from the ceiling panels was homogeneous. This also means that the braces in the film frame are not visible and do not cast shadows. A linear opal plastic cover, which Tridonic offers as an accessory for the LLE, also helps. It ensures that the LEDs do not appear as individual points of light and also protects against contact when the luminaire is open.

This demanding project also called for high quality of light, including narrow binning. This means that there are no visible spectral differences between the individual Tridonic modules. This is essential to achieve a homogeneous effect, particularly if, as here, the LED light engines are so tightly packed next to one another. Tridonic technology also ensures colour fidelity of the LEDs when dimmed. The luminous flux can be reduced or increased without any perceptible colour shift. DALI lighting control is used for dimming and switching the ceiling panels. The LLEs are operated on one4all Premium drivers. In addition to various other control options, these drivers include a DALI interface as standard. The adjustable output current of the constant-current LED drivers provides flexibility in the assignment of the LED light engines. Other benefits include particularly low standby power consumption and long life.

Kunsthalle Mannheim claims to be a “museum in motion”. Consequently, it does not intend to organise any static permanent exhibitions in the new building. Instead, objects from its collection will be presented in the cubes in new combinations and themes, with ever-changing special exhibitions of works of art loaned from museums around the world. Thanks to the flexibility of the system, the lighting can always be configured to achieve the best possible visual, conservational and staging effects.