The third phase of a master plan that has transformed a former gravel pit into a picturesque destination on the Austrian shore of Lake Constance, the Nordwesthaus boating pavilion provides a dynamic focal point at the head of Port Rohner harbor. Rising just over 45 feet tall, the pavilion sits at the level of the port basin and provides easy access for boat storage and maintenance, while also serving as an event venue for parties and workshops. The superstructure of the cube-like building consists of irregularly shaped porous concrete walls, which are enveloped by a glaze of semitransparent textured glass. During the day, this outer skin sparkles in the sunlight and has a lively interplay with the reflections from the water below. In order to create a continuous eye-catching presence for their “boat-box” at night, the architects—Austrian firm Baumschlager Eberle (BE)—were tasked with developing a fully-integrated lighting solution that would simultaneously draw people in and establish a pleasing interior atmosphere that is both vibrant and non-intrusive.

The concrete support structure that creates the inner membrane for this ambitious architecture is illuminated by 125 compact luminaires recessed into the floor of the clubhouse as well as into the sills of the openings in the concrete walls. These custom LED spotlights were developed by BE in collaboration with lighting manufacturer Zumtobel, with whom they have had a long-standing working relationship. According to BE managing partner Dietmar Eberle, creating a rich light display during the day and at night was a focus of the project's design from the start. “We chose LEDs because, in connection with DMX control, they made the programming of different light displays possible,” says Eberle. “Light displays were programmed in a way that lets the building pulse and be awake at night.”

The concealed uplights have a special feature: an asymmetrical light distribution combined with an unconventional arrangement of LEDs. This spreads the light wide into the pattern of voids formed by the concrete walls, while also focusing the light to the sides of the room and outside. According to Bernd Clauss, the Zumtobel project engineer who worked with BE on Nordwesthaus, there is no symmetric organization in the LED circuit board design. Rather, the LEDs are positioned randomly. “This means that despite asymmetrical elliptic distribution, a perfect color mix is perceived, even at a short distance,” explains Clauss. “We had to do this to create a uniform color image around the ‘holes in the wall.'”

The use of color creates a variety of changing light atmospheres during scheduled event times. The 12 integrated RGB LEDs in each luminaire offer a virtually limitless spectrum of more than 16 million colors that can easily be controlled and manipulated through the process of color mixing. Using the DMX 512 standard as a controller for this project, a series of visual effects was choreographed for the façade, ranging from a fiery glow to reeds swaying in the breeze. Far from ordinary, the Nordwesthaus boating pavilion is a beacon of light that serves as an attractive new landmark for sailors and architecture lovers alike.

Project Nordwesthaus, Fussach, Austria
Design Team Baumschlager Eberle, Lochau, Austria (architect and lighting designer); Zumtobel Lighting (technical lighting consultant)
Photographer Eduard Hueber, Brooklyn, N.Y. Images provided courtesy Zumtobel Lighting
Project Size 1,259 square feet
Manufacturer Zumtobel Lighting