Letters in the Museum
For over 15 years, the Buchstabenmuseum in Berlin has been saving old neon signs and facade lettering from destruction and oblivion. In the summer of 2020, Barbara Dechant, the director of the museum, invited Merle Michaelis and me to paint a mural there.
Above, the S-Bahn trains thunder to their next stop at Bellevue station; below, the high vaulted ceilings draw visitors to the Buchstabenmuseum deeper and deeper into the semi-dark S-Bahn arches.
In Berlin, the Buchstabenmuseum is still almost an insider’s tip, but it has received so much international coverage that guests come from all over the world to see the typographic chamber of wonders. The entire, colorful collection is a single invitation to take photographs; there is no other way to cope with the inevitable exitement for the variety of colors and shapes of the exhibits.
A Lettering Mural for the Buchstabenmuseum
But what looked simple in the sketches and feasible in the to-scale model turned out to be a challenge when we went about painting it. We thought we could get the design on the wall in two or three days, instead it took a full week.
Step 1: The Wall
Step 2: The Ceiling
Because sketching out the design at a height of four meters, first in pencil and then transferring it to an uneven masonry surface with a paint roller, was more difficult than it looked.
Each S-Bahn arch has an area of around 150 square meters, the vaults are over four and a half meters high, and the letters were to run across the floor, wall and ceiling. For us, that meant a week of climibing up on the rolling scaffold and down off the rolling scaffold.
Schritt 3: Der Fußboden
Schritt 4: Die Details
In the end, we touched up the edges of the long black letters on the rough masonry in a few places—without smoothing them too much.
When we were finished, the lettering covered almost half of the wall and floor space in the museum’s first S-Bahn arch. On a straight surface, the letters would have been over eight meters high, but folded into the corner of the wall of the S-Bahn arch, the actually two-dimensional lettering formed a walk-in space.
This space was planned from the beginning as a temporary installation, and in the meantime the museum has painted over our mural again. But it ghost image is still visible.
Hari Klein, the photographer, not the painter, has accompanied and documented our work throughout the week. The successful photos on this page are from Hari, the rest we have made with the cell phone. Thank you!