Tempest Tornados in Zurich art project installation
Thursday, 1 July 2021
zurichThe lighting equipment is housed within a vibrant, custom built 17m-high mast structure
Switzerland - Tempest enclosures have enabled an eye-catching lighting display for the public to enjoy in Zurich. In Tactile Lights (Tastende Lichter), designed by artist Pipilotti Rist, slow moving lights ‘float’ atop the picturesque city streets and buildings, drawing attention to the striking architecture and surroundings at Heimplatz square, ahead of the opening of the recent extension to the Kunsthaus museum.
The lighting equipment - Martin Allure fixtures protected by five Tempest Tornado 1925 lighting enclosures - is housed within a vibrant, custom built 17m high mast structure, forming its own artistic focal point at the centre of the square. The project was funded by the City of Zurich and the Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft art association.
“One of the biggest challenges for us was where and how to place the moving light devices,” says Kaori Kuwabara, independent lighting designer and project manager. “Since the artwork is only viewable when dark, I was concerned that, in this attractive city environment, it wouldn’t be appreciated to have a giant technical pole with large devices hanging from it visible during the day. So, I asked the artist to perhaps colour the pole for a more aesthetic, ‘happier’ appearance.
“What started with a little question grew exponentially, and we had many brainstorming hours, weeks, months and years before it transformed into what we have today. In this period, Tim Burnham at Tempest supported us with ideas on how to hide the large base of the Tornado dome, and how to prepare this installation for maintenance.”
The team installed each of the enclosures on a motorised pull-out drawer to allow for easy inspection and maintenance. An air circulation engineer calculated the amount of air required for the installation, and special ventilation channels were built into the colourful mast head to ensure optimal performance. After extensive development, the team produced a brightly coloured, curved and twisted mast concept housing the lighting enclosures, which stands out in the cityscape.
“We had many different directions we went through and the artist (Pipilotti Rist) is wonderful; she is very interested in maximising technical opportunities, and she is also very ambitious in what she wants to achieve with her team. She reacted intelligently to different circumstances and made the whole journey a big pleasure to be a part of,” adds Kuwabara.
The original Moser building of the Kunsthaus museum and the new limestone-clad extension – designed by David Chipperfield Architects Berlin - are now connected by a 70 metre-long underground passage under Heimplatz. The Kunsthaus Zurich will become the largest art museum in Switzerland, after 12 years of planning and construction, when the extension opens in Autumn 2021. It offers one of the largest art collections in Switzerland, with works from the 13th century to the present day.
“It shows the area in a new light,” adds Kuwabara. “It is a very busy place with lots of traffic during the day, but when the sun goes down and the lights appear gently, it is a beautiful invitation for passers-by to slow down and immerse themselves in the calm display.”

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