Klaus-Jürgen Maack: Light is the fourth dimension of architecture

Klaus-Jürgen Maack (1938-2019), former CEO of ERCO, presented an impressive speech for his product designer Alois Dworschak, who retired after having worked for ERCO for more than three decades.

Klaus-Jürgen Maack was born 1938 in Lüdenscheid. He studied as printing engineer in Stuttgart. From 1965 till 2003 he was managing director of ERCO. He introduced ERCO´s maxim “We sell light, not luminaries” and introduced a paradigm shift for the company. His book “ERCO Lichtfabrik” offers a comprehensive overview of his corporate design and product design approach. With his visionary management the company received numerous awards for graphic and product design. He was awarded with the “Bundespreis für Förderer des Designs”. Maack was also chairman of the board of the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen.
Mr Maack started originally an apprenticeship as industrial management assistant in a printing press in Bremen and studied printing in Stuttgart. In 1963, he started to work at ERCO in Lüdenscheid. With leading product designers he introduced innovative luminaire programs. In the mid of the 1970s he initiated the collaboration with the graphic designer Otl Aicher for defining the corporated identity for ERCO as a basis for the visual communication. Projects like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the Louvre in Paris or the Reichstag in Berlin are illuminated by ERCO.

Principles useful for thinking in light according to Klaus-Jürgen Maack:

  1. Light is “the fourth dimension” of architecture. Light interprets spaces, makes them perceptible, makes it possible to experience them.
  2. Light is invisible in the light path. Light is therefore a medium that is not visible, but makes visible.
  3. Light includes shadow, semi-darkness and contrast to make space or objects an experience.
  4. It takes many light sources to make a room appear dark, perhaps more than to make it uniformly bright.
  5. The quality of perception and the quality of vision are the result of good lighting.
  6. The prerequisite for good lighting is visual comfort, i.e. glare-free and reflection-free light.
  7. Light on vertical surfaces is usually more important for perception than light on horizontal surfaces.
  8. Seeing is the most important sense of perception before smelling, tasting, hearing and feeling.
  9. Ambient luminescence, focal glow and play of brilliants is the basic structuring for luminaire development as well as for lighting design.
  10. The luminaire is first and foremost a lighting instrument, a lighting tool for a specific application and not an aesthetic object.
  11. The respective luminaire fashion may be good for the respective fashion of room decoration, but it probably solves lighting problems more by chance – not consciously.
  12. Whoever illuminates a room must think in terms of light qualities and not in terms of beautiful forms.

Principles were published in the ERCO book “Lichtfabrik” in 1990.