The focus of many legends and sagas, Istanbul’s Maiden’s Tower is the most iconic and important building for the city’s inhabitants, with a long history stretching back beyond 1423 when it first received its name.

During its complete renovation, the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism commissioned contractors ASTEL to conduct an international competition for a light show that should highlight the Tower, be widely seen around Istanbul and run fully-automated every night.

The contract was won by Martin Kuhn of MKLD Lighting Design & Consulting of Berlin, who conceived the idea of telling the Tower’s story using light to accompany the narrative in the manner of a theatre piece or performance.

Kuhn commissioned a 7-minute script from respected Turkish writer, Ayşe Kulin, had it translated it into English and Arabic, found professional speakers for all three languages, recorded the story and then edited it with music he also specially commissioned and produced with some Turkish musicians in Berlin.

Because the Maiden’s Tower is sited 300m from Istanbul’s ‘Asian’ side and 1500m from the ‘European’ side, broadcasting the story from speakers on the Tower was impractical, so Kuhn devised a method of using a website to send an audio file to visitors’ phones and synchronized it with the time-coded show.

The lighting project was incorporated into the building refurbishment, and included all the architectural lighting, which served a dual purpose for both the show and the general architectural look at night.

“When I first started to look into the project, I knew immediately that I needed to find the most powerful beam lights to be able to cut through the ambient light of the Istanbul sky,” says Kuhn. “Michael (Althaus, Ayrton’s Global Sales Director) then told me in secret about the Cobra project and I was invited as one of the first to take a look at the newly developed fixture.

“Seeing is believing, and as Ayrton also offered a full marine-grade finish and IP66 upgrade, the decision was instantly made to use 48 Cobra units in the installation. They are based at ground level and incorporated on the outer sea-wall of the island. In the daytime, they are hidden behind closed hatches so they do not interfere with the clean look of the tower. Once the island is closed to the public at night, the hatches are opened and the lights exposed to take part in the performance.”

Kuhn also introduced lasers as a second element to the show working with LaserFabrik to set up and program the laser part of the show. “I opted for very powerful lasers to match the Cobras, placing eight 50W RGB on the top balcony, and a further eight 24W RGB incorporated into the sea walls for projection on the walls of the tower,” he says. “There are also two 60W lasers, one on the Maiden’s Tower and one on the Galatea Tower 2km away on the other side of the Bosphorus, to build a visual connection between both.”

As the Tower can be viewed from near and far and is monitored tightly as a national monument, the show could not be programmed live on site, so Kuhn and his team programmed the show remotely in a studio using a very accurate 3D model created in Depence 3D and GrandMA3 software. Additional programming and touching up was carried out on site very late at night.

“The Cobras perform well and can be seen from far away! We use them almost exclusively in beam mode and with pastel colours to give a strong beam. I am very happy with them and 100% sure I made the right choice.”

The Maiden’s Tower Show runs at 10pm and 10.30pm every night and lasts for 7 minutes. The Ayrton Cobra fixtures were supplied by local distributor, Asimetrik.

Text: Julie Harper
Photos: © Martin Kuhn & © Amanda Holmes
L-R Martin Kuhn and MA Operator Marc Marlo Schelesnow
L-R Martin Kuhn, Dennis Klipp (Laser) and Marc Marlo Schelesnow (MA Operator)

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