Lightopia at the Vitra Design Museum


28.09.2013 – 16.03.2014

Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany.

Light and Art come together in a unique collection of displays, lectures and workshops. This is a ‘must see’ if you are interested in lighting, architecture, design or sustainability.

Over the past century, electric light has revolutionised our environment unlike hardly any other medium. It has transformed our cities, created new lifestyles and working conditions, and became a catalyst of progress for industry, medicine and communication. New lighting technologies are currently bringing about profound changes in the domain of artificial lighting. This development is the subject of the Vitra Design Museum’s exhibition »Lightopia«. It is the first comprehensive showcase on the topic of lighting design, featuring examples from the realms of art, design, architecture and many other disciplines.
»Lightopia« encompasses roughly 300 works, including numerous iconic artefacts from the Vitra Design Museum’s lighting collection – which has thus far never been presented to the public – with works by Wilhelm Wagenfeld, Achille Castiglioni, Gino Sarfatti and Ingo Maurer. Other objects demonstrate the performative power of light, like the famous »Light-Space Modulator« by László Moholy-Nagy, or the spectacular reconstruction of a discothèque from the year 1968, made entirely out of translucent plexiglass. The primary focus of the exhibition is on works by contemporary designers and artists such as Olafur Eliasson, Troika, Chris Fraser, Front Design, Daan Roosegaarde, Joris Laarman, realities:united and mischer’traxler, who illustrate the scope of new possibilities for designing with light.
Lightopia Cruz DiezAmong the exhibits are many interactive and walk-in installations that give visitors a direct experience of the archaic power of light.
A  true panorama of lighting design – from the beginnings of industrial society to the visions that will define our future – emerges from the dialogue between the works displayed in »Lightopia«. The historical review of lighting design also places a sharper focus on the radical changes occurring today. While novel plastics, coloured light and halogen lamps were the driving forces behind new designs during the past century, today this role has been taken on by digitalisation or OLED technology. Because of such innovations, light has become increasingly autonomous and independent from traditional lighting objects – it can now be integrated in textiles or facades, and that it has received a completely new importance as a powerful element that defines physical spaces. Taking these developments as a starting point, the exhibition also addresses questions that dominate today’s discourse: How can designers, artists and architects utilise light in a way that protects our natural resources? How can we deal with the problem of excessive artificial lighting, or ‘light pollution’?
With its interdisciplinary approach, »Lightopia« shows how lighting design has influenced modern living spaces. The exhibition also explores the current paradigm shift and locates it within cultural history. As curator Jolanthe Kugler points out: “›Lightopia‹ is the first exhibition that not only examines partial aspects of lighting design – such as light art or the design of luminaires – but also looks at the different facets of lighting design and places it in the context of current debates.”
The exhibition »Lightopia« is accompanied by an extensive events programme, including lectures, podium discussions, symposia and workshops with renowned artists, designers and scholars. Guests will include Michele De Lucchi, Ben van Berkel, Winy Maas/MVRDV, Rogier van der Heide, Troika, mischer’traxler and many others. A 300-page catalogue in three volumes with over 300 illustrations is being published in conjunction with the exhibition. Among its authors are international experts on design and lighting, such as Peter Weibel, Sidney Perkowitz, Hartmut Böhme and Bart Loomtsma.

Following its presentation at the Vitra Design Museum, the exhibition will travel to other museums around the world.

Below is a sample of some of the upcoming events that will be held as part of ›Lightopia‹.


11:00 am

Everything glows – Lightopia for Kids / CHILDREN’S TOUR (DE)

Light takes many forms – blinking, beaming, full of poetry and colour, strong or weak. On a guided tour of the exhibition, we will discover laser clothing, light art, a discothèque and a wide variety of lamps. Afterwards, we will design our own lamp of the future. For children age 5 to 12. € 5.00 per child, registration at


8:00 pm

Rhine Harbor / Dreiländereck
Siegrun Appelt – »Lichtszene – Dreiland«

On the occasion of the 2013 IBA Project Show and the exhibition »Lightopia«, this renowned artist, accompanied by Yvonne Ziegler, creates a light installation that celebrates the aesthetic and cultural diversity in the region, with interventions on both banks of the Rhine River in all three countries. Until 2 November 2013, beginning at dusk (approx. 6:50 pm during daylight savings time; approx. 5:50 pm during winter months)


6:00 pm

Daniel Rybakken – Light Poetry / TALK (EN)

Daniel Rybakken’s designs are not luminaires in the conventional sense; rather, he creates lyrical light-filled spaces using colours and reflections. In his »Daylight« projects, he aims to imitate the aura of natural sunlight and its effect on our subconscious. During this talk, Rybakken describes his numerous light-based projects. Free admission, registration not required


5:00 pm

Rays of Light in Literature / LANDSCAPES OF LIGHT

Light plays, mirrors, reflects and refracts – also in works of literature. A literary light map in two voices can be experienced inside the colour space of the installation »Chromosaturation« (2010) by Carlos Cruz-Diez , which is part of the exhibition »Lightopia«. € 9 / reduced € 7 (incl. museum admission), no registration required

05 Oct