On the outskirts of Leipzig, on an otherwise nondescript street that is now home to car dealerships and various other industrial units, stands a 19th century gasometer. You’d be forgiven for walking past in search of more interesting sights. Leipzig is, after all, a city with lots offer. But this gasometer, no longer needed to serve its original purpose, has been adopted for a new role. Yesterday it served as a gasometer, today it inspires as a Panometer. And the brick exterior belies what can be found within.
The term Panometer is the result of the marriage of two words. Gasometer and panorama. Since 2003, artist Yadegar Asisi has been creating 360 degree panoramas on a vast scale and exhibiting them in former gasometers converted for the purpose. I’d heard of this artist and his work whilst visiting Berlin but not had the chance to see it for myself. So when I heard Leipzig was home to a Panometer, it went straight on the itinerary. The current exhibition is Titanic. Given that the sinking of the Titanic is a human tragedy that has intrigued and fascinated for generations, I was curious as to how this would be interpreted and presented on such a vast scale.
The walk into the panorama is via an accompanying multi media exhibition. The exhibition tackles not only the 1912 sinking of the Titanic, but with effective lighting and intriguing images, challenges the visitor to think about the things we view as development and the double-edged sword of technological advance. Are we right to think we can push the boundaries beyond the laws of nature and creation?
One of the highlights of the exhibition is the 23m tall reconstruction of the Titanic’s bow. You come upon this having wandered past plans for the titanic recreated on a vast scale. It’s a good indication of the scale of things to come.
The main event of the exhibition is the awe-inspiring, circular masterpiece of the wreck of the Titanic, laid to rest on the bed of the Atlantic at a depth of about 4000m. The panorama covers 3,500 square meters and can be viewed from ground level or at various heights using the 15m high viewing tower in the centre of the installation. Lighting and sound effects are used to enhance the experience, and it works beautifully. It is quite eerie, as the wreck is revealed from almost complete darkness to a haunting sound track.
Within the Panorama you’ll find quotes and statements that show just how much faith the inventors and passengers had in the ship. The statements are starkly presented in black and white and create quite a juxtaposition alongside the vast image of the wreck. The Titanic, for all its opulence and clever engineering, was taken by the sea and reclaimed by nature.
Following the exhibition, the route out leads through a gift shop and a very pleasant cafe.If visiting in the cooler months you might well fancy a warm drink. Given the buildings original purpose ,it wasn’t designed with human comfort in mind. It can get pretty chilly. The cafe makes for a pleasant place to stop and is very reasonably priced.
It isn’t just what lies within the Panometer that is impressive. From a distance it looks like little more than a relic from dirtier, more industrial age. The old gauge on the exterior is a sign of its former use but giving the gasometer a new purpose has given it a new lease of life. The adjacent, smaller structure has been reincarnated as an open air space for cultural and sporting events. The space in between, glassed over to create an attractive atrium, houses the cafe and entrance foyer. I thought it very fitting that an artist who works on such a huge scale to make the viewer look at things differently has found a way to reinvent these old buildings . The humble gasometer transformed into a Panometer is intriguing, modern, exciting and well worth a visit.
Find all you need to know about the Panometer here