What do you do with a building that has outlived its moment? For decades, the standard response has been to tear it down. But another approach has been growing in popularity among architects: Give it a new skin. That’s what the firm 3deluxe did to a shopping center in Frankfurt, Germany, transforming it from a postmodern, three-volume hodgepodge into a cutting-edge, ever-changing light installation.
Zeilgalerie was originally designed by Darmstadt-based architects Kramm & Strigl as a stylistic mix consisting of, from left to right, a glazed semi-cylindrical volume, a central entrance tower, and a façade of perforated sheet metal. 3deluxe made the tripartite configuration more uniform by covering them all in black matte aluminum panels. On the rightmost side, a few hundred LED strips were installed between the metal panels and a top layer of double-glazed glass. Each of the 19,700 light diodes can be individually controlled, allowing for a variety of patterns, from sharp geometrics to the simulation of light and shadow. A dot screen on the convex structure on the left-hand side occasionally lights up to create visual continuity. By day, Zeilgalerie is decked out in discreet metal cladding; by night, it’s an eye-catching fireworks display.
3deluxe not only gave a stale structure a much-needed facelift, it also introduced an alternative to in-your-face billboard advertising. According to the studio: “Rather than concrete advertising slogans, it conveys the urban vibrancy of the location and translates it into atmosphere light images.” So much better than a model in a state of undress, no? The Red Dot jury seems to have thought so, giving the project an award in the category of information/public space.