That one of the most modern office buildings of its time – rationally built, light and flexibly divisible – would house an exhibition a good 110 years after it was constructed, this is something that architect Peter Behrens probably wouldn’t have thought likely. The design concept’s proposition for NRW’s anniversary exhibition: an environment in which visitors can relax and engage with the exhibition can only be created according to, not against, the original architectural concept. This means that fixtures and signs are allowed to have a temporary appearance – flexible like the former office floors – that lines of sight remain unobstructed and that the path through the exhibition is clear.
Visitors enter the rather sober looking building on the Rhine promenade through a bright green portal. They enter a foyer that even today achieves an “artistic effect … with simple material and simple design” (*1). Elaborating on this idea, a 270° media installation about places and current everyday life in NRW, projected directly onto the marble surfaces below the gallery, sets the mood for visiting the exhibition.
On the 1st floor gallery, large, backlit images fitted into the wall niches introduce challenges which the federal state of NRW currently faces. Following this introduction, these challenges are discussed in the 8 exhibition chapters. The gridded appearance of the images is characteristic for the introduction as well as the subsequent chapters: it provides orientation and marks spatial and thematic changes.
The scenography of the 8 exhibition areas matches their respective narrative focus. For example is the “Danger” area furnished with intersected walls, thus supporting the chapter’s deconstructive atmosphere. The fixtures of each area are of the same colour spectrum – the colour concept comprises a total of 33 different colours – and by this combine information and narrative media with the area’s individual colour and impression. The exhibition is structured by its main texts, printed in the exhibition’s overall colour “luminous green”, the exhibit labels, printed on panels of the areas’ individual colours, and info graphics, which are designed in a consistent style throughout the exhibition. The distinctively gridded image style is also repeated in the exhibition’s key visual featuring the symbols of NRW’s coat of arms. Thus, the exhibition’s historical content is presented in a modern graphic style. Developed in cooperation with the client, the exhibition’s holistic design concept combines space, graphics, and external presentation. It subtly supports the visitors’ feeling of having successfully mastered the challenges of the last 75 years.
*1: from Peter Behrens’ inaugural address, Festschrift Mannesmann Röhren Werke, 1912
Portfolio / Range of Services
Commissioned as general contractor for all services, exhibition design and planning, implementation planning, concept development for the display, interior design of the service areas, exhibition production, project management and consulting project development, multimedia design, design and user interface of the media guide, concept and design of the media installation on the front of the building, development and production of the HandsOn-displays, exhibition and media graphics, signage, tactile guidance system