Monday, 9 August 2010

The Neon Lights of Frankfurt.

The Lufthansa Aviation Centre located in the South West of Frankfurt lies on a thin strip between the motorway and Frankfurt Airport. Built as offices to house some 1800 staff, the building comprises eight, six storey glass office blocks positioned diagonally opposite to each other, with eight six storey atriums positioned diagonally opposite to them, in a checker pattern. In each of the eight giant atriums, gardens have been planted acting as both the lungs of the building and as noise barriers, allowing staff to open their office windows onto a quiet and tranquil space.

Designed by Architect Christoph Ingenhoven at Ingenhoven Architects, Dusseldorf this impossing structure of glass and steel also houses the works of seven well known artists. Michael Beutler, Thomas Demand, Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset, Liam Gillick, Carsten Nicolai, Beat Streuli and Cerith Wyn Evans were all comissioned by Lufthansa to produce pieces reflecting both the building and the Lufthansa identity.
In 2006 I was contacted by Robert Smith at Aztec Modelmakers, Teddington, Middlesex to discuss the production of some neon tubes for a project that they were working on with the White Cube Gallery and the artist Cerith Wyn Evans. Robert came down to my workshop with Cerith's assistant and showed me thier 3D rendering of Cerith's design. The design itself was quite self explainitory, you're probably familiar with the inflight magazines found on most airplanes showing their flight destinations as large arcs across the globe; Cerith's idea was to reproduce all of Lufthansa'a flight paths around the globe in neon but remove the globe.
The whole sculpture was to have some 160 individual pieces of neon. 20mm Snow White tubes from Neon Products were used to allow an intense brightness combined with a degree of longevity. Aztec Modelmakers supplied full size templates for each individual section of glass allowing me to bend each neon tube to exactly the right length and diameter. Each of the neon tubes was powered by its own power supply provided by Mode Lighting. Tube lengths were kept to maximum of 6 foot with 120m/A elecrodes, allowing each power supply to produce 995 volts at 100m/A. Both tubing and electrodes were supplied by my favourite neon supplier Sign Tec Services in East Sussex. Each of the Mode power supplies was produced specially without it's casing, allowing Aztec to encase the units in beautiful, clear acrylic pods which hang suspended over the neon.
It was Aztec Modelmakers who were given the monumental job of designing the stainless steel structure which was to hold the neon tubes in place. With their considerable knowledge and understanding of engineering and metal work, Aztec produced a magnificent stainless steel frame following each of the lines of the neon and which itself is suspended from what might look to be the underside of a gigantic UFO. A work of art in itself, this huge structure caused some considerable problems as to how it was to be suspended within the glass atrium. Working closely with the architects and the engineers who constructed the building, this massive installation was eventually placed in pride of place giving motorway drivers a breif respite from thier daily grind.

You couldn't do that using LEDs.


  1. In my opinion this an amazing and stunning piece of work. Absolutely fantastic, well done to all of you that must have sweated buckets to get this done. Bravo! Long live the light.

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