The historic Dresden Cathedral appears to “breathe” with light for the 70th Annual Observance of the Bombing of Dresden in WWII. 
Click on photo for larger view. Photo © Craig Collins.
Lebensatem/Dresden • Breath of Life/Dresden
©Stuart Williams 2015. All rights reserved.
Dresden Cathedral, Dresden, Germany
Fiscal Sponsor: New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) 
“…an emblematic artwork of timeless and far-reaching importance.” 
– Global Fine Art Awards Nominee 2015
This is wonderful news. Congratulations...” 
– Ramu Damodaran, Chief, United Nations Academic Impact
Breathing Cathedral: The historic Dresden Cathedral “breathes with light.” For the 70th observance of the fire bombing of Dresden in World War Two, New York artist, Stuart Williams, transformed the Cathedral with waves of light that rose and fell on the facade at the pace of human breath… causing the Cathedral to appear to breathe. 
Said the artist: Given Dresden’s nearly total destruction in a suffocating firestorm — a searing conflagration sparked by 3 days and nights of Allied air raids, and where tens of thousands perished — I think the vision of one of the city's most treasured landmarks appearing to breathe is deeply moving.”
 An International Observance: The opening ceremony included speeches by Dresden Mayor Lehmann, Consul General Riedmann from the U.S. Consulate in Leipzig, and the artist. In attendance were representatives from Dresden’s sister cities around the world, including Coventry, England and Columbus, Ohio. 10,000 people formed a human chain around the Baroque old city that was destroyed, with Williams’ light installation, Breath of Life/Dresden, soaring 83 meters (275 ft.) directly overhead.
4 Years in Planning: Williams worked hand-in-hand with Dresden city officials and planners in pinpointing the Dresden Cathedral as the ideal site for Breath of Life/Dresden, as well as in the formidable effort to win approval from the Dresden Department of Monument Preservation, the Dresden Cathedral and the Provincial Government of Saxony.  
 Impact: Breath of Life/Dresden received wide media attention throughout Germany and the U.S. It drew words of praise from the U.S. Embassy, Berlin; the Dresden Mayor's Office; Kunstforum International, Cologne; 
Buckingham Palace, London; the White House; and from the United Nations. It was featured in Public Art Review magazine and was a nominee for the Global Fine Art Awards in New York.
~ Testimonial ~ City of Dresden:
Breath of Life/Dresden offered a silent message for peace and reconciliation. (It) was an impressive contribution to a peaceful remembrance of the city’s destruction.”
A Documentary Film is in development.
View a brief trailer (2:05 mins.)

Logline: Past shadows present in Germany, no more darkly than in Dresden. Sparked by the World War Two firebombing of this royal Saxon city, Neo-Nazis rally there, making it a flashpoint of rising nationalism. One American artist, granted rare permission, uses the historic Dresden Cathedral as a monumental canvas to illuminate a “breathing” message for reconciliation. 
We invite your SUPPORT to complete our documentary film.
Contributions are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. 
Sponsored by The New York Foundation for the Arts.
See Williams speaking at the 70th Annual Commemoration of the Bombing of Dresden, marking the exact moment seven decades ago that three days and nights of saturation bombing incinerated the historic city.
View video (2:10 mins.)
•  •  •  •  •  •  •  •  •
A Vision for Reconciliation: Here is a public artwork linking two former adversaries from WWII — the single most deadly war in human history — offering a breathing beacon of hope, and a compelling message for reconciliation.
A Baroque Masterpiece: A masterpiece of Baroque architecture, the Dresden Cathedral (c. 1738) is one of the city’s foremost historic landmarks. Along with the city center it was virtually destroyed in the bombing, and then meticulously rebuilt — stone by stone — in the 1980s. With its prominent setting on the River Elbe, the Cathedral is a key component of Dresden’s famed Baroque skyline. A kinetic light installation in such a prominent setting, towering 275 feet above the heart of the city, became an artwork on the scale of the cityscape.​​​​​​​

This Project Endorsed By: 
City of Dresden, Mayor’s Office • Free State of Saxony • Dresden Department of Culture and Monument Preservation
• The Dresden Cathedral
 • U.S. Embassy, Berlin • U.S. Consulate, Leipzig • The White House
• Buckingham Palace, London • The United Nations, New York • The Dresden Trust, London
• Allianz Kulturstiftung, Berlin • Volkswagen, Wolfsburg • Bishop of Coventry, UK • The German Consulate, New York
• Deutsches Haus, New York University • Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, Indianapolis
• College of Architecture, University of Michigan • Dresden Sister City Inc. • Columbus Sister Cities International
• City of Columbus, Mayor’s Office • Columbus Art Commission International • Columbus Public Art 2012
Supported By:
The New York Foundation for the Arts • City of Dresden • Dresden Sister City Inc. • Columbus Sister Cities International
• U.S. Consulate, Leipzig • U.S. Embassy, Berlin • 
Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski Dresden 
• Westin Bellevue Dresden • WildKat PR, Berlin • an Anonymous Foundation in New York • & Dozens of Individuals
In the closing days of World War Two, three days and nights of Allied bombing created a devastating firestorm which incinerated Dresden… a Baroque city of unparalleled architectural treasures. The destruction of Dresden was a profound loss to the cultural heritage of the entire world. ​​​​​​​
PHOTOS © Craig Collins 
(except for historic photos or as otherwise noted)
Click on any photo for larger view.
Said Williams, I’m the son of an American soldier who was fighting in Germany against the Nazis when Dresden was bombed. I see this project's message as one of reconciliation between two former adversaries in the most deadly war in human history. And… I see it as a gesture of friendship extended across the Atlantic… and across time.” 
What led to this project in Dresden?

 In 2011 Williams was commissioned to create a large scale outdoor installation in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Breath of Life/Columbus (above) was installed in 2012. During the planning of the Columbus project, Columbus Sister Cities International and Dresden Sister City Inc. commissioned Williams to travel to Dresden, Germany (sister city to Columbus) to research potential sites for a “sister installation” in Dresden. Seed money was provided by both organizations, as well as by the City of Dresden, and planning and fund raising continued for more than 3 years. In 2014, plans for the Dresden installation took on even deeper symbolic meaning, as the City of Dresden welcomed the suggestion of Dresden Sister City Inc., to have Breath of Life/Dresden take place in February 2015 to coincide with the
70th anniversary observance of the bombing of Dresden. Photo © Craig Collins 2012.
Detail photo. Working with lighting technicians, the artist composed a visual score that was programmed into a digital data controller, which orchestrated the pace of the modulating up-lighting on the tower as waves of light rose and fell at the pace of human breath, and revealed the richly detailed facade in ways it had never before been seen.
Artist’s Speech at the Opening Ceremony in Dresden on February 13, 2015: 

“As an American artist, and as the son of an American soldier who fought with the Allied troops in WWII, I would like to thank the City of Dresden, the Free State of Saxony, and the Dresden Cathedral for welcoming me to install Breath of Life/Dresden to coincide with the 70th anniversary observance of the bombing of Dresden. 

By using the most basic medium of light, the Cathedral appears to “breathe,” as waves of light rise and fall at the pace of human breath. Given Dresden’s destruction in the closing days of World War II, I think the vision of one of this city’s foremost historic landmarks appearing to “breathe,” is extremely moving. As a Baroque city of unparalleled architectural treasures, I think Dresden’s destruction was a profound loss to the cultural heritage of the whole world.

Here is a public artwork linking two former adversaries from WWII — the single most deadly war in human history — offering a breathing beacon of hope, and a compelling message for world peace. For three long years I’ve been working on the planning and fund raising for this complex and very challenging art installation. Fund raising has fallen short, but by dipping into my own personal life savings, I am today, on this night, 70 years on from an event that has become an icon in the annals of the horrors of war, honored to be able to offer Breath of Life/Dresden as my gift to the
City of Dresden, free and for all to see.”
Paris Inspiration: During a sabbatical in Paris — ‘‘The City of Light” — Williams developed his concept for simulating human breath on architectural facades by introducing computer-controlled waves of energy-efficient LED uplighting.
Florence on the Elbe: Known for centuries as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, Dresden held little significance as a military or industrial center. Tens of thousands died in the firebombing of Dresden in February 1945, and with them, the leveling of a Baroque city of unparalleled architectural treasures was a profound loss to the cultural heritage of
the whole world. Said the artist, “The irony is not lost on me that I am a citizen of one of the two nations that
destroyed Dresden.”
Dresden’s compelling story and its iconic standing in the annals of the horrors of war have been nearly forgotten or are relatively unknown by younger generations. Breath of Life / Dresden offers an opportunity to restore lost history and to begin a conversation about the tragic destruction of one of the world’s great cities. Click on photo for larger view.
A Challenging Installation: An installation crew of five “climbers” and two lighting technicians secured an array of LED lamp fixtures at three levels of the 83 meter (275 foot) bell tower. Climbers in Germany are highly trained workers who have adapted the skills of Alpine mountain climbers to scaling historic towers and facades in Europe for maintenance and repair. 600 meters (1968 feet) of electrical cable to provide power to the computer-controlled, energy-efficient LED lighting system were threaded through the interior of the tower to be visually unobtrusive.
This brief video (1:34 mins.) shows the “climbers” in action as they scale the bell tower of the Dresden Cathedral like human ants, busily installing a network of LED uplighting fixtures to animate the facade with breathing waves of light.
Artist’s sketch (above) simulates the project as seen from the Marienbrücke (bridge over the River Elbe).
Artist’s sketch (above) simulates the project as seen from Augustusstraße.
A Restored Baroque Skyline: Above is a recent photo of Dresden’s famous “silhouette” along the River Elbe. All of the buildings in this photo, along with most of the historic city center, were virtually demolished in the bombing of Dresden in 1945. The Dresden Cathedral (c.1738) is the project site, and is the tower on the far right. In the mid 1980s — forty years after WWII — it was meticulously rebuilt. 
The Frauenkirche (large dome on the left) was built in 1726. The dome collapsed during the firestorm ignited by the bombing. Its reconstruction was completed in 2004, finally restoring Dresden’s historic skyline to what it had been for centuries. But a short walk from the river reveals a new city with few traces of a lost history. Photo ©Stuart Williams.
The Venetian painter Canaletto (1722–1780) painted this view of Dresden’s “silhouette” in 1748. The Dresden Cathedral — the project site — is the tallest tower on the right.
Canaletto’s View: Three historical views of Dresden by the painter Canaletto have been marked throughout the city by empty steel frames in the shape of an easel. Each easel frames one of Canaletto’s view points of today’s Dresden and
is accompanied by an image of his corresponding painting (see the painting above).

On a Personal Note: “Ever since I saw the film Slaughterhouse Five in 1972, based on Kurt Vonnegut’s seminal novel, I have been haunted by a scene in which American prisoners of war are arriving in Dresden by train... unknowingly, just a few days before the bombing of the city in February 1945. As the train rolls across the River Elbe, the American prisoners are looking out the window and have their first view of Dresden’s famed skyline. One of the Americans says, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it... it’s so beautiful.’ And from that touching scene, it is the distinctive silhouette of the Dresden Cathedral that has been etched in my memory for all these years.”  — Stuart Williams
Dresden is the capital of Saxony. It is 164 kilometers (102 miles) south of Berlin, and close to both the Czech
and Polish borders.
Dresden before it was bombed.
Dresden after it was bombed in February 1945.
At least 25.000 people perished in the bombing of Dresden. The victims were mostly women and children.
See national leaders, veterans, journalists and survivors speak about the profound impact of the Bombing of Dresden. 
View video (2:34 mins.)
“I would have given my life to save Dresden for the world’s generations to come.
That is how everyone should feel about every city on Earth.”
  — Kurt Vonnegut

READ Kurt Vonnegut's stunning letter to his parents following his release as a prisoner of war in Dresden.
Royal Air Force Target Map. Dresden Bombing Raid 1945.
Mutual Destruction / Mutual Reconciliation
Williams interviews the Bishop of Coventry, England (Dresden & Coventry are “sister cities”)
View video (3:52 mins.)
On the day marking 70 years since Dresden’s destruction, Williams interviews the Bishop of Coventry in his Dresden hotel. Coventry, England was bombed into ruins by the German Luftwaffe in 1940… five years later, in the closing days of the war, Dresden was incinerated by the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Air Force. Out of an enduring bond of mutual suffering and a determined desire for peace and reconciliation, Dresden and Coventry became “sister cities.”
Today's Conflicts: The Annual Observance of the Bombing of Dresden has become a “cause célèbre” for neo-Nazis across Germany. Each year thousands of them come to Dresden to march in protest to what they disturbingly call the “Allied Holocaust,” as even larger groups of peace demonstrators take to the streets to protest Nazism and Fascism. And in recent years, Dresden has become a hot bed of conflict between anti-immigration protests and much larger demonstrations welcoming immigrants to Germany.
This is, in part, why the City of Dresden welcomed this project to be installed in tandem with the 70th anniversary of the bombing, as they saw it as a silent but powerful message for peace and reconciliation.​​​​​​​
View a video clip (0:44 mins.) about present day political polarization in Dresden under the shadow of Germany's past.
Stuart Williams at the site of the former Slaughterhouse Five on February 13, 2015, the 70th anniversary of the
bombing of Dresden.
Williams at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, following his installation of Breath of Life/Dresden at the historic
Dresden Cathedral in February 2015.
“Being in Berlin immediately following an emotionally charged experience in Dresden, became a more profound experience than I had expected. Visiting the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust Memorial became an even deeper reminder of the enormous tragedy of World War Two.
Across the street from the Holocaust Memorial, I also visited a memorial to the Roma victims of Nazi oppression, as well as a small but moving memorial to the gay victims of the Holocaust. I was struck by the fact that these three memorials are so prominently situated in the very heart of Berlin, just steps away from the Reichstag… the seat of the German Parliament. And I was impressed by the degree to which Germany today embraces full responsibility for the terrible horrors unleashed under its name not so very long ago.”  – Stuart Williams
Kunstforum International is a contemporary art magazine published in Cologne, Germany.
Public Art Review magazine publishes a 4-page feature on Breath of Life/Dresden.
Read the FULL Story
Feuilletonscout — a Berlin online culture magazine — interviews Williams.
Read the FULL Interview in English
A Dresden daily newspaper — Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten— interviews Williams about his installation at the Dresden Cathedral marking the 70th Observance of the bombing of Dresden in World War 2.
Untitled - The State of The Art is a Berlin art magazine. (in English)

“I attended this year’s commemoration of the bombing of Dresden, and I can confirm that this is a moving occasion. Thank you for your outstanding contribution (for the upcoming 2015 observance).”
– U.S. Consulate General; LEIPZIG, Germany / Teta Moehs, Acting Principal Officer

“Undoubtedly, this project is of utmost importance for the anniversary of the destruction of Dresden.”
– Allianz Kulturstiftung; BERLIN

“The Prince of Wales was very interested to read of the installation [at the Dresden Cathedral], and has asked me to send you his warmest thanks and best wishes for your endeavors.”     
– Buckingham Palace; LONDON

“We consider Breath of Life/Dresden to be a very worthwhile enterprise.”    
– Volkswagen Corporate Headquarters; WOLFSBURG, Germany

“Thank you for writing. I appreciate your passion for the arts and humanities.
I encourage you to keep speaking out and I wish you all the best.” 
– President Barack Obama; THE WHITE HOUSE

Thank You to:

City of Dresden • Winfried Lehmann, Deputy Mayor
Free State of Saxony
Dresden Department of Culture and Monument Preservation
The Dresden Cathedral (Dresden Kathedrale Ss. Trinitatis)
Bischof Dr. Heinrich Koch, Dresden-Meißen
U.S. Embassy, Berlin
U.S. Consulate, Leipzig
Dresden Sister City, Inc.
Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski Dresden
Westin Bellevue Dresden

Columbus Sister Cities International
Bishop Christopher, Bishop of Coventry, England
The Dresden Trust, London
WildKat PR, Berlin
New York Foundation for the Arts


New York Foundation for the Arts
City of Dresden, Germany
Dresden Sister City Inc.
Columbus Sister Cities International
U.S. Embassy, Berlin
U.S. Consulate, Leipzig
Hotel Taschenbergpalais Kempinski Dresden
Westin Bellevue Dresden 
WildKat PR, Berlin
An Anonymous Foundation in New York
Rudy Barton
Rhonda Barton
Libby Bassett
Laurel Blossom
Stanley Boles
Cheryl Brantner
Michelle Roy DeShazer
Susan Feldman
David Guthrie
Heather Guthrie
Pat Guthrie
Wendy Kahle
Dennis King
Marc Labadie
Diane Nance
Ted Olson
Jim Horn
Dennis King
Elizabeth Nogrady
Mariann Nogrady
Mike Nogrady
Norio Saito
Patricia Smith
Miriam Sontz
Leonard Todd
Dick Turner
Tom Urani
Joe Walsh

Additional Thanks to:

Kat Alder
Martial Barrault
Antje Beutekamp
Bauen mit Alpintechnik
Norbert Büchner
Cheryl Brantner
Christopher Burke
Martin Chidiac
Malcolm Cochran
Craig Collins
Suzanne Davidson
Eveline Eaton
Judith Eittinger
Dorit Fratzscher
Hermann Herlitzius
Dixon Miller
Teta Moehs
Diane Nance
Barbara Pratzner
Beate Renker
Scott Riedmann
Annedore Rudolph
Franziska Sender
Norbert Siedel
Jochen Schlattmann
Johannes Schulz
Michael Spamer
Günther Steimann
Bernd-Ulrich Tenner
Tina Thiele
Irene Schneider
Kristina Schoger
David Whitaker
Shelly Willis
The following five drawings indicate the location of LED lamps that were secured to the tower of the Dresden Cathedral, and specify the method of their attachment.
The above five drawings indicate the location of LED lamps that were secured to the tower of the Dresden Cathedral, and specify the method of their attachment.
Mixed media sketch, Dresden Cathedral. ©Stuart Williams 2015.
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