The new Buchstabenmuseum

In a joint venture of the Buchstabenmuseum and of the University of Applied Sciences in Coburg, a former beauty salon was transformed into an impressive exhibition.

 

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The project was planned and realized without any external financial help by dedicated students of the University of Applied Sciences in Coburg. Marcus Hahn and Wolfram Schmeisser first got in touch about the design of the Buchstabenmuseum in 2009. At a workshop about Scenography in the Room, Tobias Kunz proposed various design tasks for us to tackle in groups. The tasks focused on brand recognition and on designing different types of exhibitions, and one of them was the design of the Buchstabenmuseum. After the presentation and briefing about the museum, they were able to create a first draft of the design within two days. They unveiled a preliminary design in Berlin in December 2009, and then the question arose in summer 2010 of whether we were interested in redesigning the Buchstabenmuseum and repositioning the letters. They quickly decided to work this museum redesign into the framework of their thesis.

Photo Marcus Hahn

Their ideas for an exhibition system ranged from a scaffolding system to stackable crates. After many conversations, an idea that meshed well with the museum stock began to crystallize out: an elevated walkway that serves as a central element and leads the visitors through the museum. This would be bordered by spandrel panels which form the basis for the entire design concept. It houses light, labeling objects, electricity, and a guiding system. Creating a natural tour around the museum makes it much more attractive and gives it more structure. The walkway takes the visitor above the fl oor level of the museum, creating a completely new experience. But the real stars of the museum are the letters, and they deserve the most attention. They must be set in scene. We decided that this should be achieved with a lifting of the room and a more minimalist exhibition system. Walls, ceilings, and fl oors have been painted black, in a sense dissolving them. Light is used to present and highlight the pieces and creates a unique atmosphere. The letters are lit from within, or are illuminated by spotlights. This creates an exciting interplay of light and shadow. The mix between full, ordered writing and individual, incoherent letters constitutes the attraction of the exhibition. This results in new and unusual perspectives for the visitor.

Photo Aaron Rößner

It was clear from the outset that we could not implement this project alone. They decided to offer the redesign and rebuilding work as a project for interior design students. Out of many interested people, they assembled a team of twelve students. Before the project implementation, a workshop was held to collect ideas and better engage students at different points in their education. From April 29th to May 1st, 2011, the whole team traveled to the Buchstabenmuseum to explore the space to develop ideas. It came out of a very productive and pleasant weekend with lots of new ideas for the implementation of the redesign.

Photo Marcus Hahn

Because the Buchstabenmuseum is a non-profit organization, its financial resources are naturally quite low. To solve the issue of lack of funds for the construction of the redesign, finding sponsors and ideas was crucial. The team first looked for useful material in the Coburg University of Applied Sciences and Designforum. The Coburg Design Forum Oberfranken then provided the lights, carpeting, and even a large portion of the required tools. Thanks to the excellent networks of professors and their enthusiasm for the project, it was possible to win the support of companies like STO and Resopal. Former employers, such as the company AIP, were also immediately ready to support the project with materials and transportation. The Buchstabenmuseum got in touch with its members and contacts and was able to gain the support of the hruby company. This organization supported us in printing and placing the captions, and also in the repair of individual objects. The companies Triad, Selux, and Orafol also participated by providing materials and monetary donations for the project. Without all of these organizations, this project could not have been implemented. You deserve huge thanks.

Photo Andre Stoeriko

As with all projects implemented by the Coburg University of Applied Sciences, with this project we also put a lot of emphasis on doing things ourselves. Before the construction in Berlin, all the elements were prepared in the university and in the Lichtenfels Innovationszentrum. We spent a week in the Innovationszentrum workshops building and putting together boards for the railings, the walkway and the ticket office. The graphics for the exhibition were prepared in close cooperation with Barbara Dechant.

Photo Andre Stoeriko

A week before the opening, we went to Berlin to set up the exhibition. After the whole museum was emptied and cleaned out, we could begin the work. Partitions were removed and a wall opening was created. Walls, ceilings, and windows were primed. The shelves for the objects were assembled, carpets were laid, the ticket office was assembled, and the walkway was set up. After the objects had found their final places in the museum, the last of the railings and lights were installed. On July 2nd at 5:00 pm, the new exhibition could finally be opened. In the end, with more than 2,500 hours of work, a cost of 3,000 Euros, and a lot of sweat and love, we created a unique museum experience in the heart of Berlin.

Photo Marcus Hahn

The Buchstabenmuseum was founded as a nonprofi t organization in 2005. Its founding was inspired by an enthusiasm for typography and a passion for preserving typographical signs and characters. The museum aims to collect, restore and exhibit letters and characters from Berlin and around the world. Hundreds of letters have been saved from neglect or destruction and placed on display in the museum. Through the systematic preservation and documentation of these historical objects, the Buchstabenmuseum has become both a reminder of past eras and a laboratory for ongoing discussions. It is currently the only museum that focuses exclusively on individual letters as symbols. A new display concept for the letters in the Buchstabenmuseum has been developed as part of a student thesis project. The letters have been shifted around, piled up and illuminated to create an invigorating new atmosphere. This reorganization of the museum space allows the exhibits to be rediscovered and appreciated individually. Many of the letters tell their own (urban) stories or reflect the sunny selfconfidence of name brands. The exhibits also present and explore manufacturing processes and typographical peculiarities.

Photo Kilian Krug

Buchstabenmuseum
Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 13, 10178 Berlin-Mitte
Berlin Carré, 1. Floor
Design team: Elisabeth Auer, Lea Baie, Johannes Diller, Marcus Hahn, Levin Fuchs, André Grünwald, Malika Helle, Prof. Werner Kintzinger, Tobias Kunz, Sarah Lüthke, Johanna Maul, Katja Moltrecht, Steve Pfaffe, Sabine Pfeiffer, Eva-Maria Schaser, Wolfram Schmeisser

Photo Marcus Hahn