His artificial sun attracted two million people to the Tate Modern in London. Now Olafur Eliasson is
getting people psyched about cold storage. The Danish-Icelandic artist is breaking a tradition in doing
so: His predecessors in the “BMW Art Car” series, which was founded in 1975 and has attracted such
luminary contributors as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, simply painted the Munich cars. Eliasson
was more radical with his approach. He deconstructed the sleek BMW H2R racing car and covered
it in a filigree layer of ice. The Pinakothek in Munich displayed the ice installation for the first time in
Europe in the spring. GEA Küba supplied the refrigeration engineering components and thus created
“An ice time” for visitors in the entrance area of the museum.
Olafur Eliasson first presented the work in his Berlin studio in the summer of 2007. The ice project “Your mobile expectations: BMW H2R Project” had its premier at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco at the end of last year. When “the racing car with an ice plating” was planned to be displayed again in Munich, the exhibition concept had to be completely revised. The idea became
to design the object, including the required cooling engineering, as a mobile exhibition. The commission was given to the specialists from Dresdener Kühlanlagenbau GmbH (DKA). “When Olafur Eliasson‘s studio contacted us, they already had very specific ideas regarding the required engineering, and they had a vision: placing the art and refrigeration engineering into mobile containers,” said Thomas Hoffmann, DKA Sales Engineer, for whom the project was a novel in many respects.
A mobile cold-storage room provides free spaces
A room within a room had to be created to allow this mobility - a removable, transportable and sufficiently large (8.5m x 10.5m x 3.8 m (WxDxH) cold storage room. “We spent quite some time looking for the right supplier,” said Hoffmann, “a supplier who could not only meet the technical specification, but who could also satisfy the artistic demands.” The Olafur Eliasson Studio did not want pure white walls and rejected the notion of stainless steel, with which the light installation would have produced unwanted reflections.
Both features are standard in refrigeration rooms. Then the museum got wind of the matter. “When the museum heard that we would be working with water, they expressed a huge amount of concern. Museums generally dislike the usage of water in their exhibits because if there were to be a leak, surrounding exhibits could be potentially damaged. “Our room”, Hoffmann said, “was going to be put up in the entrance area, directly over an archive.”
Therefore the DKA engineers went back to the drawing board, redesigning the whole refrigeration engineering concept paying the greatest attention to security, and including in the design selected
GEA Küba high-performance Air Coolers and Condensers. The main advantage of the components was their compact size. “Since we did not have any comparison figures, we took a visitor rate of 25 persons per hour as the basis for our calculations for the cooling room and the required engineering. This required a relatively high refrigeration capacity for a freezer room of this size. At the same time, the compact size requirement remained unchanged,” Hoffmann said. The engineers of Dresdener Kälteanlagenbau calculated the refrigeration power needed to be around 30 kW to ensure a constant temperature of max. -20°C. The freezer room had to be adjustable from -5°C to -20°C.
Cooling capacity is designed for 25 visitors an hour.
Although more than sufficient individually, DKA decided to install two compressors, instead of just one, from the Bitzer company. They were installed as twin compressors with a total refrigerating power of 2 x 30 KW. If one compressor were to fail, a second would be available as a back-up. The back up compressor would switch on automatically to maintain operation. Both compressors operate alternately by the control unit to ensure a uniform load factor. GEA Küba thoroughly reworked their components with respect to the now “redundant” design. The GEA Küba Evaporator and the Condenser are made with a correspondingly high total capacity of 60 KW. Condensation takes place at +50°C which would allow the exhibition to be shown in countries with warmer climates as well.
The fact that the exhibit was to be mobile narrowed the selection of possible components. The construction length had to be as small as possible, the weight, low; the Air Coolers, high powered,
but not irritating for the visitors. “High-performance evaporators powerfully whirl up the ambient air so that storm-like gusts blow through the room. This is not a problem in the cooling rooms of bakers or butchers; but museum visitors tend to take a different view,” Hoffmann said. After all, “commercial” evaporators have a volume flow of almost 24,000m³/h. The room air would thus be circulated almost 80 times an hour.
Küba engineers recommended using continuously controllable, low-noise fans for this application. The cooler was subjected to intensive tests in the company‘s own R&D lab. The cooler provided the full refrigeration capacity even with a small air flow. Olafur Eliasson is also an avowed ecologist and had insisted that as much energy as possible be saved and utilised. The compressors were to be fully and automatically regulated over six stages of 10 kW – each in line with the required power for the “permafrost”.
Icing the work took three days
There were also very strict specifications with respect to noise allowence and the safety of the external unit (a modified 20‘ sea container used to receive the compressor, the switch cabinet and the
condenser). The twin compressors were provided with a sound protection hood and a dry cooler with a sound pressure of 42db (A) at 5m with a heat exchanging power of 90 kW was selected. The strength of this system unit was demonstrated when the project leader of the Olafur Eliasson team began to ice the gridwork. She sprayed the gridwork with water from a spray gun which had been precooled to 5°C for up to 12 hours a day over a three day span.
Around 2,100 litres of water were iced in this way. The spray mist which spread through the room then was absorbed by the evaporator and drained as condensate. The icing of the gridwork was
therefore able to be carried out continuously and without any irritating breaks to defrost or increase the room temperature. That was an indication that the correct design an engineering had been selected. In the end, the total construction weighed around 3 tonnes, measured five and a half metres long, two metres wide, and 1.20 metres high. The massive piece was illuminated from the inside.
Since a cooling room with two doors is rather unspectacular from the outside and because the presentation was to be located directly in the entrance area of the Modern Pinakothek, a secondary
room was installed around the cold-store room after consultation with the museum and the Olafur Eliasson studio. The main problem proved to be the actual location of the installation which was only made known just before the start of the exhibition, and was to be on a flight of stairs.
A patform was erected especially for the purpose of constructing above the staircase. It was designed to line up correspondingly with the cold room. ”The selection of the actual platform was not a problem. The load bearing capacity was a maximum of 40 tonnes. The actual problem was that we were suddenly supposed to work at a height of three metres. In addition to the three metre height of the platform, we had a cold room height of another 3.50 metres so that we had to meet completely new safety regulations,” Hoffmann explained.
Cold room is located on a three metre high platform
The DKA engineers, who were used to working at ground level, were suddenly faced with the challenge of lifting elements weighing 100 kilograms or more to a height of three metres and then from there, another 3.5 metres. “We first got hold of a small lifting ram which was raised to the platform and then from there we used a fork-lift truck,” Hoffmann said, “which could then be removed from the fully installed room again.”
A pond liner was positioned on the platform and a cold-store room was placed underneath for safety reasons. A collection basin as well as an immersion pump was installed below the platform to collect and pump away any dripping water. To drain water in a controlled manner, for example during the defrosting of the artwork, a water drain was intalled to the cold-store room with a drain pipe into a collection tank. The museum had to remove a bullet-proof glass pane and replace it with a provisional steel panel so that all the electrical wires, pipework and the water drain could be laid externally. “Despite all the safety provisions that needed to be made, the museum was cooperative, and even interested in the engineering. They were quite accommodating, providing everything that was needed. For instance, the artist‘s preference for green electricity was taken into account and a separate meter was fitted to the mains connection,” Hoffmann explained.
The DKA team was accompanied by two security officers during the whole installation period. The museum management had accepted the fact that water was an integral part of the exhibit. They had even begun to look into the future with a more positive attitude, in light of the multiple safety systems. Soon enough the Pinakothek management team was faced with yet another surprise: “We had to solder and weld. That meant working with open flames in the museum, while it was open to the public. Our two guards never took their eyes off us,” Hoffmann stated.
The main focus, in addition to a safe installation, was naturally on the safe operation of the museum. Savety devices, such as an emergency phone and a temperature monitor, were installed. Emergency responses were coordinated with the museum for the case of a water pump failure. Additionally, only inflammable materials (class B1) were used in the exhibit. Visual and audible warning signals were installed. Finally an agreement was arranged with the Munich office of Dresdner Kühlanlagenbau for their immediate response in the case of a emergency.
The whole refrigerating system fits into three freight containers
The whole refrigerating system, including the room, fits into three freight containers and can be installed and put into operation with a very short time – around 10 working days – because it can be
dismantled and packed away in 5 days alone. The exhibition is currently located at BMW AG in Munich, stored away, ready and waiting to travel to it’s next installation.
“Your mobile expectations: BMW H2R project” is intended to give viewers a moment to consider how their very own individual mobility behaviour is related to global warming and other ecological problems.
For this purpose, Eliasson first deconstructed the record breaking BMW hydrogen race car H2R: The artist removed the streamlined, silvery shimmering body of glass and carbon fibre composite and placed a filigree steel framework decorated with metal platelets over the base of the race car. This structure was then sprayed with water so that a gridwork of ice was formed.
Dresdener Kühlanlagenbau GmbH is an internationally operating specialist. The company has subsidiaries in Poland and the Ukraine and agencies in Moscow and Dubai. The 580 employees recorded sales of just under 80 million euros in the last financial year. “We have been working very successfully with GEA Küba for many years now. The support is fantastic. The engineers are always
looking for solutions and supply components which are tailored to the application and dependable in operation,” Hoffmann declared.