Messages in Stone

With the Light Frieze, the Kunstmuseum Basel Enters Into a Silent Dialogue With the City

This project is simply breathtaking. I hope the future looks like this.
SEGD, Best of Show 2017 and Honor Award 2017

Conceptual Contrast

A grey brick facade: archaic, hermetic, proud. At the same time: an ephemeral luminous sign, playful patterns dancing through the wall. There’s a concept behind the contrast. Based on the idea of luminescent pixel bricks, iart, working together with the architects from Christ & Gantenbein, developed the world’s first intelligent light frieze.

Light is the medium

The light frieze interprets the classical element of a frieze, with a revolutionary twist. Not only does natural light reflect off the relief, but now artificial light also shines out from within the joints. Precisely controlled LEDs allow the facade to display moving images and text for moments at a time.

Benefits of the museum

As part of the architecture, the light frieze disrupts the otherwise timeless appearance of the museum. It offers the opportunity to inform the public about current exhibitions and events, but is also an independent medium that artists can utilise for their work.

How it works

The narrow horizontal joints of the light frieze create a fine relief and are cast in shadow by the incident daylight. White LEDs are set into the joints in such a way that they cannot be seen from the street yet precisely illuminate the specially formed grooves. The joint can thus appear darker, lighter, or as bright as the rest of the facade.

Technical Facts

  • Dimensions of the light frieze: 115 m x 3 m
  • 40 horizontal joints across seven facade elements
  • sensors on the roof detect ambient light levels
  • 22 mm between individual LEDs
  • Four adjacent LEDs constitute one pixel
  • Overall resolution of the light frieze: 1306 x 40 pixels

Successful Collaboration

Architect Emmanuel Christ of Christ & Gantenbein and Valentin Spiess of iart met for a discussion about the joint collaboration, and they are amazed how close they have kept to the original idea, despite six years of development.

For the first time we are seeing the blurring of 21st century media treatment masterfully integrated within architecture. It is undeniably brilliant in conception and execution.
34th Annual IALD International Lighting Design Awards, Award of Merit
A milestone media facade. For certain it is the most unobtrusive and at the same time ‹smartest› media wall in the world.
Jo-Eike Vormittag, Professional Lighting Design, March/April 2017


The project impressed expert juries worldwide and won 16 prestigious design awards, including the Media Architecture Award, The One Show: Best in Discipline and Gold Award, and the Gold Cannes Lion.

  • Opening


  • Location


  • Client

    Bau- und Verkehrsdepartement Kanton Basel-Stadt, Hochbauamt

  • Partners

    Christ & GantenbeinLudovic BallandMultivision LED-Systeme GmbHZPF Ingenieure AG

  • Services

    2D/3D DesignLighting DesignTechnical PlanningPrototypingSystem DevelopmentSoftware DevelopmentSystem Integration

  • Awards

    • Wienerberger Brick Award

      Grand Prix
    • Wienerberger Brick Award

    • Design Preis Schweiz

    • Show All Awards
    • Professional Lighting Design Recognition Award

    • IES Illumination Award

      Illumination Award of Merit
    • Cannes Lions

      Gold Lion
    • SEGD Global Design Awards

      Honor Award
    • The One Show

    • IALD Lighting Design Awards

      Award of Merit
    • Golden Award of Montreux

      Gold medal
    • D&AD Awards

      Yellow Pencil
    • ADC Awards

    • iF Gold Award

    • Essence

    • Red Dot Award

      Grand Prix
    • SEGD

      Merit Award
    • Media Architecture Biennale Awards

    • SEGD Global Design Awards

    • The One Show

      Best in Discipline
    • Red Dot Award

      Best of the Best
  • Photos & Video Footage

    Derek Li Wan Po

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