Albert Einstein – Engineer of the Universe


Picture: Christian Gahl

Client Max Planck Society, Munich / Max Planck Institute for Scientific History, Berlin
Location Kronprinzenpalais Berlin
Duration May 2005 – September 2005
Tasks Overall coordination, coordination of design and production of the special exhibition. Scenography Serge von Arx in cooperation with Concepts for light and media design. Involvement in content planning and catalogue editing. Operational management

Germany participated in the UNESCO initiative World Year of Physics with a number of scientific and artistic events in the context of the official Einstein Year in 2005. Centrepiece of this project was the exhibition “Albert Einstein – Engineer of the Universe”, which made Albert Einstein known to a wide audience as the (probably) most important scientist of the 20th century, as well as an outstanding individual in contemporary history. Starting out from the theorist’s pioneering work, the exhibit visualised the changes in historical images of the world and portrayed the conditions and processes of scientific development. At the same time, Einstein’s rather convoluted career was illuminated before the background of the radical political and social changes that occurred during his lifetime.

Designing this exhibition with its size of ca. 2,000 square metres meant setting up a temporary museum in a protected listed building with no existing technical equipment. Thus, the Kronprinzenpalais in Berlin had to be equipped with all aspects of museum technology; even air-conditioned depots in the cellar were necessary for the preparation and erection of the valuable exhibits. The dynamics of the scenography lay in the interplay between original exhibits from scientific history, Einstein’s own writings, and biographical documents; in the accompanying media with additional interactive explanations and films, and in illustrative experimental set-ups. Contemporaries of Einstein were questioned and fictive interviews were held with the fathers of classical physics, as well as discussions with leading scientists. Each room presented a new world of images, a new scenario for the abstract themes of theoretical physics. In this way, the suggested approach to an understanding of Einstein’s personality and theory was based less on the fleeting impact of the Einstein myth and far more on the comprehensibility of science, which – entirely in the spirit of Einstein – was released from its ivory tower.