Holography as an Element
of the Media Architecture
Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen, Essen, Germany
In the recent theory of architecture and building construction there are two
architectural topics, which show how holographic elements and their
technical properties can make a valuable contribution to the solution of two
obvious problems in architecture. One is the high energy consumption in
offices and administration buildings, the other the information inflation
that takes place in many transitory spaces. In addition to this there is a
topic which refers to the aesthetic needs - i.e. the light design of
interior spaces with the help of holography in the scope of media
1. HOLOGRAPHY AND ENERGY SECTOR
Because of the energy crisis of the seventies and the new ecological
thinking a process of redefinition of architecture has been going on for the
past 15 years. Thus, the fields of building and construction technology, of
design resources and of the quality of living are studied with energy saving
in mind. This sort of research only became possible as computer-controlled
measuring practices made possible the registration and processing of data on
environmental influences and the function of appliances contained in
architecture by means of electronics. In a second step construction elements
were searched for which, together with measuring instruments, could react
immediately and precisely to specific requirements. In the late eighties
these reflections were summed under the terms intelligent building and
intelligent architecture. These terms have their origin in the control
theory of cybernetics and they mean that a building is able to react to
changes in light and temperature and to choose the most favourable
alternative concerning energy and comfort without human action of any kind.
That is, in an intelligent building static architecture is being
increasingly influenced by dynamic software. 
The energy crisis led to the development of a number of passive improvements
in construction technique such as an improved sealing of doors and windows,
the use of multiple window panels or the introduction of passive cooling
with the help of water- these are now construction standards.
The architecture of the eighties also tried to divert sun light into the
buildings by using optical elements such as prisms and mirrors. One of the
most impressive examples is the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank Building in Hong
Kong, designed by Norman Foster. By means of an extensive system of
mirrors the sun light is directed into the building and then distributed
into the rooms and corridors.
A different example is the sales department headquarters of the firm MAHO in
Pfronten in Bavaria, which has been designed by the renowned Austrian light
planning office Bartenbach. Acryl glass prisms help to prevent dazzling
caused by direct sun light inside the office and conference rooms. At the
same time light is diverted into the interior of the building. A comparatively expensive electronic control system is being used to adjust
the separate prisms according to the incidence of light. Concerning its
aesthetics this solution neverthless strikes one as anachronistically
This last project makes clear how the use of wrong material enormously
increases expenses and how the design tries to disguise this with a nice
ornamental structure. It is only the new technology exemplified by
holographic optical elements (HOEs) thatmale possible completely new
solutions concerning the management of light and the design of windows. It
is almost a banality to emphasize that HOEs with their optical functions as
mirrors, lenses and prisms are able to assume the task of controlling,
focussing and selecting light. However, there are only few architects and
theorists who are willing to examine and employ these elements
In his basic paper "Static Buildings - Dynamic Façades", given at the
symposium intelligent Building in Karlsruhe in the fall of 1991, Niklaus
Kohler of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale Lausanne included the role of
holographic elements in the structure of illumination and the technology of
facades. While his remarks were mainly theoretical, the German company VW
and the glass producer VEGLA are searching for practical uses. In the scope
of an R&D project both firms developed wide holographic dichromate foils,
into which windshields will be integrated to increase comfort. Longwave heat
waves are reflected and only the visible spectrum of light is let
through. The employment of these holographic heat filters faces creative
as well as legal obstacles. The results of this project, however, may be
used in architecture without restrictions.
The VW/VEGLA project deals with the passive selection of light, while the
Institute for Light and Construction Technique at the Cologne Polyechnic
employs HOEs to use light actively. The group around Helmut F.O. Müller and
Jörg Gutjahr is concerned with the development of construction elements that
focus light on solar cells with the help of HOEs. On the occasion of the
International Garden Exhibition in Stuttgart in 1993 the architecture group
HHS from Kassel completed a group of residential buildings in which
innovative technologies that create solar energy are tested. In cooperation
with the Institute in Cologne turnable solar paddles were fixed to the
middle of the roof, which are equiped with HOEs and solar cells. The HOEs
focus the sun light unto opaque stripes containing solar cells. This
achieves a double effect: the energy output of the solar cells is increased
while the focussing of the light unto solar cells impervious to light
resultes in a shadowy room and thus prevents its overheating. The
concentration of light beams by means of HOEs reduces the surface of the
solar cells by half, compared to previous models.  Over two years the
room temperature, lighting and electricity gains of these houses will be
measured to acquire exact information about the novel usage of this sort of
This medium-term research is necessary not only to draw up a de facto energy
review for this type of building but also because it demonstrates one of the
biggest problems concerning the employment of holograms in the open. All
attempts concering energy- rich sun light miscarry in the long term because
of the instability of the input material towards UV radiation. The team from
Cologne swears by the desensibilising chemistry of the exposed silver halide
material, but in the long term it will have to put it stakes on a different
material. The only media currently possible to work with in sun light are
embossed holograms and maybe photopolymer material. Before untrained persons
like architects or civil engineers can be persuaded of the advantages of
these elements it is necessary to get mandatory garanties and data about
their stability from the producers.
2. HOLOGRAPHY AS AN INFORMATION GUIDE
While the complex control of architecture in the areas of climate and energy
was termed intelligent building the term media architecture denotes the
conquest of the interior by the electronic media. First of all this media
architecture is characterised by its attempt to structure the wealth of
information entering the building by means of information technologies and
then to present this information to everybody, not just the user, by forming
interfaces. The media such as the jumbo screen, electrochrome glass,
LC-displays or interactive information systems, are distributed throughout
the buildings and give them a technoid feel.
The abundance of information as well as the abundance of technological
networks not only produce more knowledge and better judgement, they also
cause an inflation of data which can not be managed any more by human
working speed. We have thus reached a point where many communication
technologies and media are not used any longer to make information
accessible but to choose and structure it. 
The changes caused by tele-technologies also vitally influence urban space.
On the one hand essential communication situations that formerly took place
in urban spaces are being increasingly shifted to electronic networks .
On the other hand public architectural spaces like airports, railway
stations and malls need points of reference for orientation. Their
infrastructure increasingly resembles that of the electronic networks.
Movement and communication in public spaces, too, more and more resembles
the navigation in data space because the references to our environment are
lacking. Therefore it will be the central task of media architecture to
shape tele- information and to control it appropriately. Since communication
elements in most cases are also sources of light like for example monitors
or LC-displays, methods of designing and structuring light are suitable for
solving pending problems of interior design. Here holography plays a
The construction of multifunctional, general accessible spaces requires an
easily comprehensible, universal and univocal sign system. For this, simple
boards and signs were developed, as well as neon signs, light displays,
motion displays, light cable displays and print displays. It is a sometimes
expensive technology often in need of repair which is used to update and
present information quickly.
The possibility of storing holographically successively information and of
reproducing these discretely depending on the positon of the lamp or the
position of the recipient means that proceedings as well as other totally
different data can be stored on comparatively small displays. Media
architecture can make use of this feature. The fact that holograms often
suffer under their restricted visuality here turns into an advantage. Where
the amount of information can only barely be processed only meaningful
information may be communicated. Since 1986 the Holography Laboratory in
Osnabrück has been developing studies and prototypes of holographic
information elements. First the holographic floor tile AENA was conceived
and developed 1988 for production. With this tile an information system on
the floor was created that can be used as a floor guide. This project was
the basis for the cooperation with the design department of the Krupp
company, to complete a study on optical barriers for subway tracks.
Furthermore the Lab in cooperation with Walter Giers and Daimler Benz
developed 1990 a wall system with which holograms can be illuminated by
diffuse neon light. Together with the architect Bruno Urh a study of a Solar
Pavilion was completed. The facade of the pavilion contains holographic
panels which are tilted to allow the spectator to read varying information
depending on his position or that of the sun. The employment of a
holographic facade pursues the idea to expose the frame of the building to a
continuous change in order to overcome the rigidity of architecture. The aim
of the project was to visualize how the facade could become a sort of
pulsating membrane between the house and the environment.
3. AESTHETIC ASPECTS OF HOLOGRAPHY IN THE INNER ARCHITECTURE
The technology of air-conditioning and construction regards holography as an
intelligent storage medium. Its aesthetic qualities are of less importance.
But in field of communication displays and interior decoration the
importance of light design is obvious. It creates a relation between light
and the surrounding space while dispensing with holography's most
characteristic feature, it's three-dimensionality. Concerning this the
pioneers of interior light design with holography, such as for example Sally
Weber or Doug Tyler can be seen as part of the tradition of the light
environment as practised since Laszlo Moholy-Nagy's Light-Space Modulator or
by the group ZERO and artists like James Turell or Dan Flavin.
Thomas Lück and the author of this article created in the last two years two
new light installations, Arche-Di-Em and Diffracted Wall which will be the
subject of the following description. ArcheDi-Em is an architectural
installation that was conceived for the exhibition 'Feuer Erde Wasser Luft -
Die vier Elemente' during the MEDIALE Festival in Hamburg in the spring of
1993. The idea was to design a light environment with the help of
holographic optical elements and video monitors. In Arche-Di-Em the HOEs are
let into the walls and the floor and are illuminated by monitors which show
graphic patterns and very simple computer animations. The installation is
constructed so that it conveys the impression of a shelter, an ark. The
visitor via a short staircase the visitor enters a corridor and comes into
the main room where two wall openings and one opening in the floor can be
seen. These openings contain HOEs that are illuminated by five monitors. On
the other side of the room there is another aperture with a ramp behind it
over which the visitor leaves the installation.
A warm, cozy room has been created by the use of untreated wood. This
coziness is supported by the design of the light. It is significant for the
impact of media works, that because of their artificial origin, they
confront the recipient without any references. In order to connect them with
recognizable structures that allow for a judgement, forms are often taken
from the pre-medial contexts and implanted into the media works. The
paradoxe caused by this are aptly described by the film title 'Back to the
Future' and resemble in their perspective Walter Benjamin's Angel of
History, whose face is turned towards history, while being impelled into the
future. Not only today's media art, but the current communication technology
as a whole is located in this apparently paradox situation between future
The installation Diffracted Wall from 1992 which was first shown at the
exhibition 'Light and Architecture' in Ingolstadt, Germany is a study about
the light wall as an architectural design instrument. Here, too, HOEs
are illuminated by the simplest computer animation. The light of the TV is
manipulated, distorted and multiplied as it passes through the hologram. The
video 'light', the images on the screen are animated and then further
manipulated as they are 'bent' through the holographic surface. (Fig.4) In
the installation Diffracted Wall the rough mechanical structure of an
ordinary wall was neglected and became an immaterial element with new
properties and qualities, for example calmness.
The architecture of the present time is the field where technological and
aesthetic qualities of holography can be expressed in a most significant
way. Maybe with these developments, we shall finally reach the
multi-perspective space feeling, which was the subject of several
theoretical papers on holography in already the eighties.
There are three important categories which should be considered when
holography is incorporated the intelligent buildings and media architecture.
These are the energy saving properties in the building construction, the
role of holography as information guide in public spaces and the creation of
a new light architecture. Be functional and aesthetical could be a new motto
for the developing of an informational light design with the help of
 Several projects on this theme were shown at the exhibiton Lichtformen -
Holografie für Design und Architektur mit Hologrammen aus der Sammlung
Fielmann, which was curated by Peter Zec and shown in Design Zentrum
Nordrhein Westfalen, Essen in the fall 1993. The exhibition was completely
documentated in INTERFERENZEN, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Gesellschaft für
Holografie. vol. 4, no. 2/3, 1993.
Ken Sakamura, "Computer City," in Ars Electronica 94, Intelligent
Environment. by Karl Gerbel and Peter Weibel (ed.), PVS Verleger, Wien, vol.
1, p.131ff, 1994.
 Rudolf Schönwandt, "Highlights in Honkong," in ERCO Lichtfabrik. Ernst &
Sohn, Berlin, p. 1 24ff., 1990.
 Vito Orazem, "Alcune osservazioni sulla olografia nell' architettura
mediale - il feedback della tecnologia sul processo creativo," in
Oloqrafia-Holografie-Holographv. Avanguardia dell'Arte Olografica, by Vito
Orazem and Jörg Schepers (ed.), Benucci Editore, Perugia, p. 8ff., 1 992.
Niklaus Kohler, "Statische Gebäude - Dynamische Fassaden?" in 2.
Svmposium Intelligent Building. University of Karlsruhe, p. 3ff., 1991.
 Manfred-Andreas Beeck, Thorsten Frost, Wilbert Windeln, "Holographic
mirrors laminated into windshields for automotive Head-Up Display and solar
protective glazing applications," in Holographic Optics 111: Principles and
Applications. SPIE Proceedings 1507, Bellingham, p. 394ff., 1991.
 see INTERFERENZEN. vol. 4, no. 2/3, p. 28f., 1993
see, for example, Peter Zec, Informationsdesign, Interfrom, Zürich, 1988.
 Florian Rötzer, Urbanität in den Netzen oder Vom Take-over der Städte.
Public lecture at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, 25. Jan. 1994.
 Bruno Urh, "Solarpavilion - Projektvorstellung," in INTERFERENZEN. vol.
2, no. 4, p. 8ff., 1991.
 "Feuer Erde Wasser Luft - Die vier Elemente," in MEDIALE Hamburg, p.
76, 1993 (exhibition catalogue).
 Inge Maisch (ed.), Lightand Architecture, LGS, Ingolstadt, p. 153ff.,
1992 (exhibition catalogue).