The industrial history of the Sauerland forms the background for the extraordinary network of lighting culture in the Sauerland. Ore deposits in the Sauerland region shaped the early economic development of the region. The first evidence of mining in the Sauerland region dates back to Roman times, archaeological evidence of ore mining dates back to the early Middle Ages. Winfried Reininghaus describes the Westphalian Erzgebirge as a “forgotten mining region of pre-industrial times” in current cultural-historical research. In addition to raw materials, coal and water were also used as energy sources for metal processing and since the Middle Ages at the latest, the Sauerland region was regarded as the center of wire production.

In the course of the general availability of electric light and as part of the metalworking industry, a number of luminaire manufacturers emerged in the first half of the 20th century. In 1910 Wilhelm Hoffmeister took over the engineering office Fritz Backhaus in Lüdenscheid and laid the foundation stone for the company, which today operates under the name Hoffmeister Leuchten. In 1929 the production of ceiling-, spring-loaded and bedside lights began, later also desk- and tubular lights. The history of the Trilux Group began in Menden in 1912. Wilhelm Lenze produced accessories for the lighting industry as well as simple suspended tube and wall luminaires for gas and electric lighting. ERCO was founded by Arnold Reininghaus, Paul Buschhaus, and Karl Reeber in Lüdenscheid in 1934. In the early years of the company, Erco manufactured parts for luminaires, in particular, a spring-supported rolling mechanism for pendant luminaires, so-called raise-and-fall pendants. BEGA began producing wrought-iron lamps in Menden in 1945.

They were all represented at the first industrial trade fair that took place in Hanover after the Second World War. With the words “Either you export or you starve to death” the English occupying power had ordered the construction of an export fair. Hanover had no experience with a trade fair, the city was destroyed by the war and there was a lack of imagination. Contrary to expectations, the experiment was a success. The first exhibition took place in a former armaments factory in 1947. These and the following “Hannover Messen” directed attention with groundbreaking technical developments and became a symbol of the economic rise of the young Federal Republic of Germany. They also helped luminaire manufacturers from the Sauerland region to position themselves internationally. For the further development of medium-sized companies in the region, international sales are just as important today as Germany. “Although ERCO has its home in the Sauerland region, it sees itself as an international brand. Our offices are located where most architects, lighting designers, and electrical planners have their home, and that is in the world’s metropolises such as London, Paris or Singapore. That’s where we have to prove ourselves. The Sauerland gives you perhaps the time to think about the demands of these metropolises in peace”, Tim Henrik Maack describes it.

Lichtwoche Sauerland

In recent decades, a large number of luminaire manufacturers and distributors have successfully established themselves in the Sauerland region. The initiative for the first “Lichtwoche Sauerland” was supported by 22 manufacturers. Biennal and alternating with the international trade fair “light+building” in Frankfurt, “Lichtwoche Sauerland” is a format based on the idea of the in-house exhibition. The trade press, companies, institutions and initiatives generate a network of parallel production and sales locations and publish a joint programme. The event is primarily aimed at trade visitors who invite the participating companies to the rooms of their choice. In addition, there are a number of public events that are intended to contribute to public awareness of light as a material and tool, while at the same time identifying a large number of manufacturers and distributors as a special feature of the region. Since 2005, the format has established itself as an industry meeting place and the number of cooperations has more than doubled. “Lichtwoche Sauerland” took place for the eighth time in 2017 and the number of companies involved has grown to almost 50.

NRW Light Forum

Lichtwoche Sauerland has been coordinated by Lichtforum NRW since 2013. The Lichtforum NRW is based in Arnsberg. The aim of the association is to provide professional support for lighting technology change. “The Lichtforum NRW sees itself as a neutral platform on which knowledge is bundled and passed on. One of the self-chosen focal points is to raise awareness of the biological and ecological effects of electric light. “The consideration and treatment of topics such as light pollution, ecological compatibility of the lighting effect or also human well-being indoors and outdoors round off the interest in the sustainable action. There are almost twenty companies from the region that promote discussions on lighting culture, information and further training events and the “Lichtwoche Sauerland”.

The Lichtforum NRW also manages a collection of historical lamps and luminaires, which can be used to trace and illustrate the history of lighting. In the course of the last years there have been a number of loan exhibitions, at present the collection is not open to the public. As early as 1990, an association was set up to promote a Museum of Light and Lighting in order to develop a permanent exhibition concept for the collection in order to show lamps and luminaires in their cultural-historical contexts. Until implementation, Lichtforum NRW organizes access to the collection for research purposes and loans for other exhibition contexts.


The initiators of “Lichtwoche Sauerland” and “Lichtforum NRW” include the media cluster “Highlight”, whose editorial staff is based in Rüthen: The “Highlight Web” online portal is a specialist portal with editorial articles, dates, a manufacturers’ database and a national job exchange. For over 25 years, the magazine “Highlight” has been one of the German-language trade magazines for lighting technology and lighting design. It is published six times a year with a circulation of 10,000 copies. The special issue “Lichtreport” is dedicated to the technical products of the lighting industry and is published twice a year with a circulation of 10,000 copies. The industry events developed and organized by “Hightlight” include the “Lichtwoche Sauerland”, the “Luminaire of the Year” competition and the “German Lighting Design Prize”.


The dense cluster of the lighting industry in the Sauerland also led to the founding of the German Institute for Applied Lighting Technology[DIAL] in Lüdenscheid in 1989. Trägergesellschaft is a network of lamps and lighting industry. Their common goal is the development and sale of software for lighting design as well as knowledge and quality management in the interaction of lighting, control, and architecture. The “Dialux” software developed by DIAL is in use worldwide, translated into 25 languages and used by over 600,000 users. Light can be designed, calculated and visualized with “Dialux”. In addition, “Lumsearch” is a search engine for identifying the right luminaires. In addition, lamps, luminaires and control devices can be tested in the DIAL laboratories. A large number of seminars and further training courses serve both to impart basic specialist knowledge and to facilitate the timely transfer of innovations.


Over the last 25 years, the design of light and the development of lighting tools have developed into independent expertise with an academic curriculum. The focus of studies in electrical engineering and information technology at the University of Applied Sciences Südwestfalen is energy, light, and automation in business, development, and research. In the context of the study focus “Light”, the focus is on classical lighting tasks, but also on the many qualities of light, which research and science are only gradually breaking down and which are implemented in countless technical applications. The knowledge of new lighting technologies opens up a wide range of applications for electrical engineers in architectural lighting, in the automotive industry, in medical technology or in technical applications in which light is used, for example, for quality assurance or in automation. In cooperation with regional companies and institutes, the interaction of technical knowledge, innovation management, and entrepreneurial activity became a strategic part of the training. The university’s roots in the region can also be seen in its locations in Hagen, Iserlohn, and Lüdenscheid.


The Phänomenta is located in the immediate vicinity of the University of Applied Sciences Südwestfalen in Lüdenscheid. The Science Center’s guiding interest is to promote understanding of technology and science among the general public. In accordance with the regional focus, there are particularly many offers on the physics of light. This also includes light-based architectural and art objects that have been permanently integrated into the Phänomenta collection, among others by Paul Friedlander, Tom Groll, and Cork Marcheschi.

Municipal Art Gallery Lüdenscheid

Further works of light art can be found in the “Städtische Galerie” Lüdenscheid. A small collection of works can be seen in the collection space “Light and Movement”, whose title is based on the additional exhibition space “Light and Movement”, in which light-based works were shown for the first time at Documenta in 1964. Uwe Obier, the former director of the Städtische Galerie, regularly added works by Werner Bauer, Hartmut Böhm, Victor Bonato, Günter Dohr, Rolf Glasmeier, Heinz Mack, Christian Meggert, Otto Piene and Timm Ulrichs to the collection since the 1960s.

Art in Public Space

Light-based works by Klaus and Yvonne Goulbier and Stefan Sous, among others, can be found in the city center of Lüdenscheid. In Schalksmühle the artist Diana Ramaekers realized a light-based concept for a public park. There are also permanent works of light art in public space, where the Sauerland meets the Hellweg. The “Hellweg” was a historic trade route that was one of the most important East-West connections until the 19th century. Since 2002, a series of permanent works of light art has been created in public space, which is communicated together under the umbrella brand “Hellweg – Ein Lichtweg”. Works by Richard A. Cox and molitor&kuzmin can be seen in Soest. They are publicly accessible at all times.

The “Light Routes” lighting art project has also been underway in Lüdenscheid since 2002. Today it is considered one of the anchor points of the concept “Lüdenscheid – City of Light” and is produced by Lüdenscheid City Marketing. “With the topic of light and the LightRoutes in particular, far-reaching attention could be achieved for the city of Lüdenscheid and for the Sauerland. We have thus been able to show that the widespread prejudices against this region, which I often no longer understand, cannot be maintained. As a native and always in the Sauerland living citizen it pleases me already if we succeed in making these aspects clear”, describes Jörg Marré the successful interaction of city marketing and art project. In 2004 Sauerland Initiative had already awarded the Light Routes as an innovative format.

Since 2009, Lichthaus Arnsberg, a cooperative project space, has been presenting a series of projects of young contemporary art. The interplay of architecture, history, and art often results in multimedia works, including works that use light as a material or medium.


The classic natural and cultural areas associated with the Sauerland region also become a meeting point in the region through light shows. Since 2010 the Wildwald Vosswinkel has been used by the Neheim event agency “Eventvision”. Since 2011, the Dechen Cave has been transformed once a year by lighting designer Wolfgang Flammersfeld with large-area color light projections. In 2013, it also occupied the dam wall of Lake Möhnese on the occasion of its 100th anniversary. Since 2015 he has also been the designer of the “Herbstlichtgarten” in Hemer. Former industrial sites such as the Luisenhütte in Balve are also regularly staged with light. Under the title “Luise heats up” the former hut becomes a stage for fire and light and illustrates the historical pictures of the work on the historic blast furnace to entertain the 21st century.


When asked why he is located in the Sauerland region the artist Tom Groll says: “The technical know-how and the openness of the industry for my art with light, as well as the project work in public space, opened the doors for fruitful cooperations. The network of light is one of the distinguishing features of the Sauerland. The boundaries between physics and technology, research and development, design and art, living environments and scope are highly permeable due to geographical proximity and personal networks.” Over the last 100 years, a unique competence cluster has emerged along the diverse qualities of electric light, which has permanently changed the appearance of the region.

Text: Bettina Pelz. Published: 20 May 2018.

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