The illumination of the old iron cathedral of Sayn, realized by the German lighting studio Licht Kunst Licht, represents an astonishing lighting work. For this reason, it has been named, together with other two projects of the same studio, with a special mention at the Codega Award 2017.

The Sayn Foundry

Located in a quiet valley of the river Rhine near Coblenz is the Bendorf locality Sayn. This place used to be a prolific sites of industrial cast iron production in the 19th century. At the northern end of the village is the Sayn iron works facility. Here is a delicate, neo-gothic hall of unexpected airiness and elegance: the foundry.

Under Prussian reign, the iron works of Sayn produced light-weight far-spanning structures. Thus, the foundry building, completed in 1830, featured the use of pre-fabricated cast elements from serial production. The result was not a sober functional building, but an industrial hall taking the form a three-nave cast-iron basilica. An iron cathedral, a prototype for the great engineered buildings of European industrialization.

After the iron works of Sayn were closed in 1926, the area fell into ruin. In 2010, the Federal Chamber of Engineers awarded the title “historical landmark of the art engineering in Germany” to the cultural monument.


The Illumination of the Sayn Iron Works Foundry

Since June 2015 the foundry is open to visitors. Now an event center for flexible uses has been elegantly integrated into the landmark.
This new use called for an illumination that features both the entire ensemble and individual elements and details of the architecture. For this purpose, the lighting project by Licht Kunst Licht devised an illumination with LED luminaires only, emphasising architectural elements and permitting an independent adjustment and control of all lighting devices.

A DALI control system integrated and accessed via touch panel allowed pre-programmed lighting scenes for various uses. Thus reproducing nuanced light scenographies for the nocturnal edifice.


A view into the architecture

When looking at the Sayn foundry from outside at night, it is the western facade that attracts the view. The center line aligns with the roof in its coloured illumination, following the path of the iron melt from the backwall that once housed the furnace. The airiness and transparency of the basilica-like layout are emphasized. The foundry hall emanates warmth from within and the nocturnal elevation contrasts with the mountain scenery around.

Inside the foundry hall, it is the longitudinal expanse and spatial geometry that manage to impress. The formal contrast between the powerful vertical pillars of the lower building volume and the filigree, horizontally sprawling roof cavity is further enhanced by the crane tracks for the travelling cranes. These now house the luminaires and offer a horizontal divide between the spatial layers.


Opposites and contrasts, harmoniously illuminated

The direct wide-beam spotlights of the general illumination add a warm light layer to the floor areas of the building. This creates a consistent luminous background, that gently features the wall and roof surfaces with reflected light. Additionally, columns are concisely accentuated by narrow-beam spotlights in a cooler light colour, placed on either side at the top of the pillars.
A subtle contrast of colour temperatures emerges and creates a differentiated light orchestration that makes the space palpable.

The tall brick wall of the former furnace is the only directly illuminated wall surface. Its irregular texture is deliberately featured by floor recessed wall washers. As a result, the hall’s bright rear wall creates an eastward spatial boundary. And a contrasting backdrop for the dark iron structure.
Sprawling above is the impressive roof volume of the central nave, that is featured as an all-encompassing element by means of concealed linear RGBstrips. The luminaires are shielded from views by means of bespoke and precisely calibrated shields.

The red hue used for the roof illumination is adapted to the colour of the bricks and wooden beams. Thus creating a formal bracket, evocative of the path, the molten iron once took. Evidently, the control system can adjust the colour to different hues, if the event requires it. The visible light fittings originate from the same luminaire family, thus creating a homogenous design language in all elements related to lighting. Each luminaire was placed and installed with great diligence, in order not to interfere with the listed building structure. In coordination with the heritage department, all light fixtures and accessories have been coated in the same colour as the structure. Additionally, all direct spotlights have been fitted with honeycomb louvers and snoots. This to ensure a precise and low-glare light distribution.


A sophisticated lighting concept

The oldest preserved fabrication hall in iron is presented in its uniqueness and dichotomy by a sensitive and sophisticated lighting concept. The adjustable, preprogrammed atmospheres cater to different uses and event types while always offering a striking illumination. The building appears to glow from within being reminiscent of its former use by emanating a warm, yet rugged ambience.

Client: Municipality of Bendorf
Occupant: Foundation Sayn Iron Works
Lighting design: Licht Kunst Licht
Project management Licht Kunst Licht: Johannes Roloff, Stephanie Jochem
Project size: 1,150 m2