When someone climbs over a handrail, it may not be particularly exciting. However, if this happens at some 140 meters above ground and the person then abseils down a vertical tower wall, it is. That was exactly what some industrial climbers did when they attached a large banner to the Drop Tower advertising the “50 Reasons WHY” exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of the University of Bremen.
The exhibition displays 50 sites all over Bremen – and why they have the university in them. The Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) and its unique Drop Tower are part of it. ZARM staff members carry out research on various topics related to space and space travel. They hold lectures, seminars, learning projects, and offer international degree courses. Experiments in weightlessness are conducted within the 146-meter Drop Tower, which is one of a kind in Bremen. There are only four comparable research labs worldwide.
In the context of the exhibition, the idea was born to attach a 40-meter banner to the tower on which the letters “WARUM” (WHY) would be clearly visible from afar. A great idea – but not so easy to put into practice. “Putting up the banner was a multi-day project,” says Birgit Kinkelday, ZARM’s Head of Corporate Communication. A great deal of preparatory work on the tower was required. And it had to be done by professional industrial climbers.
There were already some strong anchor points for large banners mounted to the tower wall as in the “Einstein Year”, in 2005, an 80-meter banner was attached there. However, as this was 16 years ago, for reasons of safety, the anchor points had to be re-examined by experts. Once that was done, the next challenge came: As the current banner was only half the size of the previous one, two additional anchor points were needed. The industrial climbers had to attach these by means of complex drilling and fastening techniques.
Every morning, heavily loaded with tools and materials, the men rode the tower elevator up to the top. Up there is a bright room, not only for meetings. For a few years now, it has been possible to get married there as well. The panorama lounge is located one level above – inside the Drop Tower’s glass spire. If the weather conditions are favorable, you have a great view of Bremen and the surrounding area. From there, through a door, the climbers reached the narrow platform surrounding the top of the Drop Tower. Well secured, they climbed over the platform’s handrail and slowly abseiled down the long wall to do their work. “I always felt quite queasy at that moment,” laughs Birgit Kinkeldey, who supervised the team from Steady Climbing. “And it was impressive how heavily loaded and professional the industrial climbers worked on the tower wall every day.” After all, they had to carry their tools for hours to do the preliminary work of attaching the banner.
“It was impressive, how professional the industrial climbers worked on the tower wall every day.” (ZARM’s Head of Corporate Communication Birgit Kinkelday)
They were only able to work on fairly calm days, which meant that the project had to be interrupted several times. On May 20, 2021, the time had come: Accompanied by a drone shooting aerial footage, the industrial climbers attached the banner to the Drop Tower and that is where it will hang probably until the end of the year.
If you’re ever on campus and scan the QR code on the banner, you’ll learn more about the experiments conducted in the Drop Tower and the “50 Reasons WHY” exhibition.
Universität Bremen - 50 Reasons WHY