The Muzej Apoksiomena in the Croatian town of Mali Lošinj tells the emotive story of the statue of Apoxyomenos – the "Lošinj Athlete" that was discovered in the sea just off the coast of the island of Lošinj. Scenic rooms staged by Zumtobel lighting solutions take visitors on a fascinating journey into the ancient world.
Nobody knows how long and how come the 2000-year-old bronze statue of Apoxyomenos was resting at the bottom of the Mediterranean. Amateur divers only found it by chance in 1996. Partly concealed in the sand at a depth of 45 metres and covered with shells and seaweed, the figure was eventually recovered from the seabed three years later. All experts agree: The Greek athlete discovered off the coast of Lošinj is a truly unique find. Following six years of meticulous restoration work, Croatian architects Idis Turato and Saša Randić have designed a new museum for Apoxyomenos. Together with the architects and various other planners, Zumtobel has come up with a tailor-made lighting concept that uses a wide range of LED lighting solutions to really bring the story of the statue to life.
Lush vegetation, rolling hills and a mild Mediterranean climate – Mali Lošinj is a stunning location on the island of Lošinj in the middle of the azure-blue northern Adriatic Sea. Muzej Apoksiomena is situated in the old Kvarner Palace on the waterfront. At first glance, the building barely stands out from the neighbouring houses. Yet look a little harder and the eye is drawn to a glass roof structure and a covered entrance area, which is actually an expansive balcony. Another special feature is revealed as evening approaches: coloured rays of light. The outer wall and balcony then appear as a composition of coloured surfaces that exert an irresistible attraction. RGB wall luminaires from the IKONO LED family and floor-recessed PASO II fittings from Zumtobel installed here offer a taste of what really sets this construction apart. This is a unique treasure chest – a museum that houses a lovingly designed spatial concept in which visitors pass through carefully staged rooms to slowly become familiar with Apoxyomenos and its fascinating history. “Like in scenes from a Stanley Kubrick film, visitors experience a museum that unfolds in rhythmic sections in front of their very eyes,” explained Turato when asked to define this special concept.
The first image of this visual journey is the seabed. On entering the museum, visitors find themselves in a hollowed-out building with bright cobalt-blue walls. A freely positioned white steel structure seems to hover above, with roughly welded steel plates that somehow resemble the hull of a powerful ship. The SUPERSYSTEM II multifunctional LED tool from Zumtobel installed in low-voltage tracks on the steel body and LED strips integrated into the floor along the walls combine to focus attention on these room-defining elements. As a key part of the overall room concept, the light sources themselves remain discreetly in the background.
An escalator concealed in a white sheet-steel tube leads up inside the spatial sculpture to the first exhibition space. Here, in soft light provided by back-lit wall panels and tables, visitors are offered their first insights into the historical significance, location and restoration of the statue. The story continues in the neighbouring cinema, where a colourful interior design evokes images of aquatic plants. This impression is created by completely covering the seating steps, walls and ceiling with floral patterns made from hand-woven merino wool. The general impression of an underwater world is reinforced by floor-recessed PASO II LED RGB luminaires, which use flowing colour transitions to generate a murky subaquatic atmosphere.
Visitors then wander up a completely red staircase into the media room, which does more than just demonstrate how the story of Apoxyomenos has been received and reported all over the world. It is here where the Greek athlete can be seen for the first time in all its original glory through an opening in the ceiling. Another staircase with vibrant olive-wood wall panelling leads to the top floor, where items discovered inside the figure on the seabed – such as branches, herb seeds and olive stones – are displayed in small, wall-mounted showcases. Precise accent lighting of the objects is achieved with the help of the miniaturised MICROTOOLS LED lighting system.
Without any colours and – above all – without any hint of shadow, the white main chamber that houses the actual Apoxyomenos statue represents the mystical high point of the museum. The special aura, which really puts the focus on the 1.92-metre-high bronze figure, is achieved with the help of a white floor and white textile walls that seem to merge seamlessly into the ceiling. An indiscernible light solution with invisible light sources was required to support this dematerialising effect. The challenge was met by a constellation of Zumtobel’s wide-area CIELOS LED luminaires – not flush-mounted, but with LED strips inserted between each fitting. The result: no discernible joins on the textile surfaces between the individual elements. In deliberate contrast, light surfaces installed diagonally to the direction of the glass floor tiles create a kind of visual foundation.
Moving on from the main chamber, visitors finally reach a completely black stairwell illuminated by LINARIA light lines. This space, featuring a glass roof structure that was already visible from the waterfront, has been finished off with a kaleidoscopic-type mirrored ceiling that offers views over the picturesque bay of Mali Lošinj.
The Muzej Apoksiomena is a real spatial artwork – a fine structural composition that impressively presents Apoxyomenos and shows how the statue emerged from the depths of the sea to finally once again see the light of day. Zumtobel LED luminaires, which can be controlled using the LITECOM lighting management system and are dimmable for dramatic effect, play a significant role throughout the building in helping to tell this unique story in all its fascinating glory.