Werdendes Ruhrgebiet exhibition by Bernhard Denkinger Architect
How were you commissioned?:
I have been working several times, over a period of 24 years, for this client, on several projects
What was the brief from the client and how much were they involved?:
Integration of a wide range of existing showcases in the architectural design. Only few light (30 LUX) admitted for objects dating from 800 AC. Two "fields" of objects of equal importance: Archeological objects illustrating everyday life and precious objects of early medieval sacral art (also first handwritten documents of the region).
How did the brief affect the materials and design choices?:
Facing very restrictive lighting conditions I tried to create areas of light close to the objects. The archeological objects are embracing the objets of sacral art that are placed in the centre of the space.
How did your previous experience help you with this project?:
Placing nothing but open books in the centre of a wide space was a decision motivated by my conviction that the intellectually most important objects had to form the center of the exhibition in spite of the fact that they can only be shown with very few light, are small objects and are demanding short distance views. A decision I would not have dared to take ten years ago.
Can you explain the layout of the project:
A simple parcours is leading in form of a spiral to the center, where the objects of early medieval sacral art are presented. Three ramps are iniciating the parcours. The longitudinal space ist designed in different ways on the right side and on the left side. On the right side a irregular way highlights archeological objects, the left side refers to the early christian cloister settlements and is designed in a regular, geometric way. There is a strong relation between entrance and center. Having reached the center visitors face the distant entrance area - separated by the back-lit ramp.
What problems or challenges did you face?:
70 Million EURO of Insurance values for the objects requiring high standards of conservation and the integration of existing Standard showcases. I created platforms allowing to place the standard showcases in geometric blocks, I designed elements containing light installations that are connecting the existing and new designed showcases. All new designed showcases are designed as modular elements mounted on the platforms and re-usable for further exhibition purposes.
What do you feel were the most unusual design elements of the project?:
The very dark space, its underlying "fire" (light installations), the pure character of the objects, the reference to the exposition space - a building of industrial modern of the late 20th of the nineteenth century. One element showing this are curtains made of industrial chains painted black: they reflect the woven metal shirts that protected medieval fighters, but chains also were used in early industrial buildings and conveyer belts.
How do you think this project is pushing design forward? What makes it special?:
The project focuses on issues of content. Themes of the scientific concept as well as the materials and the intellectual value of the exposition objects are generating the presentation. The continuous underlying structure of light reflects the exposition theme. The design uses very simple spacial sequences, nevertheless the corresponding irregular and regular spaces form a rich non-schematic space.
Werdendes Ruhrgebiet. Spätantike und Frühmittelalter an Rhein und Ruhr.
Ruhr Museum Essen, Germany.
Exhibition design / architecture: Bernhard Denkinger Architect
Client: Ruhr Museum, Essen
Director: Prof. Heinrich Theodor Grütter
Curators: Patrick Jung, Reinhild Stephan-Maaser, Kai Jansen
Photographs: Deimel und Wittmar, Essen
Drawings: Denkinger Architect