Innovation, sharing and knowledge transfer. A trip to Zumtobel's Light Forum in Dornbirn, Austria, where architecture (Herbert Resch and Snøhetta) supports research into light

Opened in November in the spaces of the original Zumtobel plant at Dornbirn, the Light Forum celebrates 70 years of activity of a leading company in the field of technical lighting, helmed today by Alfred Felder, CEO of Zumtobel Group. A story that began with Walter Zumtobel, who in 1950 founded Elektrogeräte und Kunstharzpresswerk W. Zumtobel KG, which right here in this prefabricated factory produced reactors for fluorescent tubes, an innovative technology in those days. Over time, Zumtobel has made innovation into a program: today, in this laboratory-space for encounters and discussion, it becomes an explicit concept, offering visitors an exclusive lighting experience at different levels of complexity, with technical lighting solutions in a constant state of development.



The simplicity and structural ‘honesty’ of the industrial construction – converted in a light way by the firm Snøhetta in collaboration with Herbert Resch (Head of Corporate Architecture & Corporate Design of Zumtobel Group) – welcome a series of versatile spaces, in a logic of reuse and conservation of existing real estate assets, installed below the sawtooth roofing to document and display the work in progress. In what has been defined as a “Co-Creation Space,” the company and external designers activate virtuous interaction to directly test the characteristics and potential of lighting fixtures and light sources produced by the company. Rather than a traditional showroom, the Light Forum – also due to its size, covering all of the 4000 sqm of area of the original plant – acts as an unprecedented space for viewing and working: an environment in which the dynamic display of products is joined by temporary exhibitions, presentations and debates, transforming a commercial space in a hybrid, experimental way to make it an open center of culture and art.


The project by the studio Snøhetta conserves traces of the industrial past, taking the structure of the factory as a neutral framework of fair-face concrete in which to arrange light rooms"

The project by the studio Snøhetta conserves traces of the industrial past, taking the structure of the factory as a neutral framework of fair-face concrete in which to arrange light rooms (small spaces formed by a metal perimeter frame in which to activate different light sources and characteristics), in relation to larger zones with different material finishing, still formulated as large ‘boxes’ that do not erase the unity and height of the production space in which it all began. The internal itinerary, formed by various volumes positioned on the smooth concrete floor, offers a number of ‘open’ areas in which to meet, including a vast full-height hall with central tables and seating (from the Maxima line by William Sawaya) and a large stepped amphitheater in pale wood, with continuous lighting along the steps, which Snøhetta has inserted as the heart of the project, symbol of the “Co-Creation” philosophy behind Light Forum Zumtobel.


The internal architectural pathway is underscored by a series of modular sofas which William Sawaya has created as forceful sculptural signs, in a careful sequence that forms a sort of trail of reference. Kjetil Trædal Thorsen, founding partner of Snøhetta, and Patrick Lüth, Managing Director of the Innsbruck Studios, explain this project of recovery and functional conversion of an industrial space from the postwar period: “The use of buildings changes, in step with new ways of working. In this large reconfigured industrial pavilion, it is possible to set up creative workshops with clients and to organize events open to the public. Visitors can still perceive the history and atmosphere of the original space.” Together with the focus on the interaction between light, architecture and people, the memory of the place and the past of the company play a crucial role to redefine the relationship between the company, the city and the global audience.

Project Snøhetta - Photos Faruk Pinjo, Matthias Rhomberg, courtesy Zumtobel