Art reaching up to the heavens

The "transcendental elevator" at the University of Art in Linz | AT

The Berlin-based artist Karin Sander has created an extraordinary exhibition space for students at the University of Art in Linz: a "transcendental elevator" that is simultaneously an artistic object, an appliance and an icon. With the help of Zumtobel, the elevator not only shines in varying colours way beyond the rooftops of the university, but can also be transformed into a real work of art by students.

The intensity and the colour of the light in the transcendental elevator can be varied according to specific needs. Or particular tastes. © Zumtobel / Photography: Faruk Pinjo

Look up to the roof of the University of Art in the Upper Austrian city of Linz and you may at first be a little confused. Why exactly is a glass goods lift – a contraption that can be seen from far and wide – standing high above the roof of the university? It glows in a series of bold changing tones, sometimes brighter, sometimes darker. In fact, it almost seems to be sending signals to the sky. But why? This creative construction project, which is presently catching everyone's eye in Linz, is the work of the artist Karin Sander. She has designed a hybrid known as the "transcendental elevator". On the one hand, the purely functional goods lift is a shining symbol of the university – a symbol that can certainly be easily seen. For miles around.

The Berlin-based artist Karin Sander has created an extraordinary exhibition space for students at the University of Art in Linz. © Zumtobel / Photography: Faruk Pinjo

But first, let us start at the beginning. The prominent Viennese architects Architekt Krischanitz are currently refurbishing the various different sections of the University of Art and Design Linz. The recent completion of the eastern bridgehead building (Brückenkopfgebäude) on the Nibelungen Bridge marks the end of the first construction phase. Although the listed façades of the historic building have remained very much untouched, the architects have found a way of adding impressive lecture theatres under a glass roof structure. And they have used a new lighting design concept to emphasise the imposing stairwells. Artist Karin Sander, representatives from Architekt Krischanitz and the client BIG (as part of their BIG ART construction & art programme) all worked closely with Zumtobel to realise the transcendental elevator project.

A "transcendental elevator" that is simultaneously an artistic object, an appliance and an icon. © Zumtobel / Photography: Faruk Pinjo

The Zumtobel team set about developing a vibrant lighting installation – in every sense. In stark contrast to the small amount of space available, this solution makes a big impression by immersing the elevator in all the colours of the spectrum. The demands were high. Very high, in fact. As an artistic object, this project required a lighting system that could offer students the greatest possible creative freedom. Yet as a practical goods lift, the specified components also had to be fit for purpose. A frameless illuminated ceiling from Zumtobel managed to hit both of these targets. The intensity and the colour of the light can be easily modified using a controls solution that contrasts maximum flexibility with minimal complexity: LITECOM from Zumtobel. As a result, all the necessary parameters can be perfected and programmed according to the specific needs of the students or staff. Just how they want it.

The purely functional goods lift is a shining symbol.
© Zumtobel / Photography: Faruk Pinjo

The ALVA spherical luminaire from Hermann Czech and Adolf Krischanitz

The transcendental elevator is not the only special feature associated with this construction project. Visit the University of Art and you will discover a true design gem: the ALVA spherical luminaire. Based on an idea from Hermann Czech that originally dates back to the 1960s, this fitting was first designed together with Adolf Krischanitz during the 1990s. Now Zumtobel and the Architekt Krischanitz studio have refreshed this concept for "the editions" – a special collection in more ways than one. ALVA gives the university illustrious sparkle. The light spheres float like heavenly bodies in the hallways, accentuating the impressive staircase and the elegant cafeteria. "A key reason for the beauty of the luminaire is the fact that the technology is hidden. Zumtobel immediately developed two versions that fulfilled our requirements," explained Stefan Just, Project Manager at Architekt Krischanitz.

Zumtobel set about developing two versions of the fitting. One luminaire features a glass sphere that is open at the bottom and the top and comes equipped with a glare-free downlight. © Zumtobel / Photography: Faruk Pinjo

The more complex version features a glass sphere that is open at the bottom and the top. The glare-free light is provided in three ways: from an LED downlight and an LED uplight, as well as via spherical illumination of the whole fitting – without any shading caused by the technology. The simpler version sacrifices the direct beam of the downlight for a completely closed glass housing that indirectly delivers diffuse spherical light.

Based on a long-standing idea from Hermann Czech, the Architekt Krischanitz studio teamed up with Zumtobel to develop the ALVA spherical luminaire for “the editions” special collection. © Zumtobel / Photography: Faruk Pinjo

Zumtobel and modern art

Zumtobel has been associated with contemporary art projects for decades now. And not just as a supporter, but also as an active partner for the implementation of highly complex installations – just like the joint "Skyspace" project by the Austrian lighting specialist and James Turrell in Lech am Arlberg. This underground light room in the middle of the Alpine landscape of Vorarlberg, the home county of Zumtobel, opened in September 2018.

The “transcendental elevator” is much more than just an ordinary goods elevator – this is a shining symbol of the University of Art that can be seen from far and wide in and around Linz. © Zumtobel / Photography: Faruk Pinjo