Wirbelwerk extends down from the top of the atrium of the Lenbachhaus museum, in Munich, to just above visitors’ heads. Composed of sets of conical spirals coiled in contrary directions, Wirbelwerk tapers from a diameter of around seven metres at its broadest point to a narrow tip more than eight metres below. Made of polished metal tubes and hand-blown coloured-glass triangles, the work draws visitors into the visual universe of the paintings in the galleries above. Illuminated from within, Wirbelwerk, which translates roughly to ‘vortex work’, lights up the entire atrium, casting flecks of colourful light and shadows onto the surrounding walls. These projections fluctuate with the level of daylight entering the atrium, appearing sometimes more distinct and sometimes more diffuse.
The intertwined coils of Wirbelwerk channel the dynamic energy of a vortex. This phenomenon, created by a mass of wind or water spinning around a central cavity or vacuum that sucks whatever it seizes down into the depths before bringing it back up to the surface, occurs in all scales, from water twisting down the bathtub drain to the circulating winds of hurricanes and currents in the ocean, to the vast spiralling form of galaxies.