Technology also needs to work in historic buildings

Ralph Lang; © Lang
Interview with Ralph Lang, Product manager Lang Shop & Objekt

The worlds of fashion and lifestyle, the hospitality industry, hotels, law offices, medical practices and offices are the core areas of Lang Shop & Objekt from Dortmund, Germany. “We avoid a uniform sign language, “ says owner Ralph Lang. It’s about the unique features of the respective customer. We asked him about opportunities and problems with landmarked buildings.

“Once monument protection is here, renovation gets expensive and takes a lot longer than planned. “ Is that true?

Unfortunately, that is an accurate description. Due to the many building restraints for landmarked buildings, the development and sadly also the construction costs are more time-consuming and thus more expensive than with a regular construction project

Is monument protection a restriction for store construction?

No, not in any way! This sets no limits on your creativity.

Where should public authorities be willing to rethink and where should retailers be more willing to compromise?

Monument protection of a building‘s outer shell makes sense. In interior work there needs to be more room for design preferences when it comes to the technology – TGA ventilation, fire sprinkling system- that needs to be newly installed. Here the public authorities should show more willingness to accommodate. This does not create any problems for the retailer, since in most cases those are solved by the design team.

Which retailers do you think are especially open towards historic properties?

Customers from the hospitality sector, museums, concert halls and theaters, small/medium companies – but not chain stores.

How do consumers respond to modern design in historic buildings?

Great and open-minded, sustainability through building in already existing structures is being supported.


Restaurant „View“ in Dortmund; © Lang
Restaurant “View“ in Dortmund: Modern ambience in an old brewery building. © Lang

When one hears the term “old“, you think of timber frames and castles. But how do you handle buildings from the fifties and sixties?

For starters, anything is possible. Amazing stores can also be designed in buildings from the fifties and sixties. What’s important is that the technology that needs to be installed is also well feasible.

Landmarked facade design is a sensitive issue. Should retailers be content with plain signs even without existing statutes?

Our experience when working together with monument protection agencies is actually great. In personal talks a lot can be accomplished by producing projects that have already been realized.

Preservationists often criticize huge shop windows on the first floor of historic houses. Is that a necessary evil for good visual merchandising or is there another way?

Oftentimes a deconstruction to the original condition where windows in part used to be larger is already sufficient. Optimal and feasible solutions don’t have to be miles apart from each other.

In which historic store from your repertoire do you take special personal pride in?

I take pride in the “View“ restaurant on the 7th floor of the Dortmund U-Turm (U-Tower). Here the historic landmark of the old Union brewery (“Union-Brauerei“) turned into a new center of culture and creativity with impressive hospitality. The building essentially kept its old historic look. The shell was cleaned up and new gold leaf was applied onto the nine meter U. During the interior construction the charm of the large historical industry monument was preserved and the required technology that needed to be installed was feasible.

Interview: René Schellbach,


Related articles:

Related articles: - Modern shopping in historic environments

Related articles: - Technology also needs to work in historic buildings