With its wide open space peppered with four building complexes that boast of concrete architectural beauty, Leitz Park is a minimalist's dream. Or rather, it was a dream to bring the brand back to its birthplace, the quaint town of Wetzlar. After all, it was here where the company branched out from its initial production of glasses, telescopes and binoculars to the compact 35mm film camera that would forever change the world of photography and make Leica a name to be known. I'll save the history lesson for later — or you could always pop by the newly-opened Leitz Park for a more in-depth experience. I was there at the opening and I can assure you that it's worth the trip if you're a cult Leica fan.
1. Check in at the Leica hotel
Officially called the arcona Living Ernst Leitz Hotel, it houses 129 rooms, apartments and suites; a common lounge area and a restaurant. The mood of the hotel is as minimal as the amenities within the room — expect only your most basic comforts met — while the design concept for the hotel is meant to reflect the various elements of photography. For example, 250 stunning works by more than 60 photographers make up for most of the art pieces around the building. In fact, each room features a different photograph and the wallpaper actually takes after the Ur-Leica's drawing plans.
2. 'Eyes wide open! 100 years of Leica photography' at the Leitz-Park museum
Right next to the hotel is my favourite building in the whole of Leitz Park. There are a few things you can do here. One of them is checking out the anniversary exhibition, 'Eyes wide open! 100 years of Leica photography'. Curated by Hans-Michael Koetzle and available only till October 2018, it features an impressive collection of 35mm images by Leica photographers, including the iconic kiss shared between a sailor and a nurse on Long Island. When you're done, you can shop for souvenirs at the shop downstairs.
3. Or head upstairs to take a photo from the 'lens' of the building
This floor is meant more for meetings and presentations but there is a mini balcony area where you can get a bird's eye view of the compound. From below, you'll be able to see that it's actually in the designed to look like the body of the camera's lens.
4. Sift through the Leica Archives
Because we were there at the opening, Leitz Park actually included the archives as part of the tour. Otherwise, it's only open to departmental specialists, collectors, journalists and researchers as the staff is still arranging all the assets. These very assets, however, are phenomenal. From old plans to memorabilia commemorating every milestone to a replica of the Leica (Red) Camera designed by Apple's Jony Ive and Marc Newson for Bono of U2's charity (fun fact: it fetched US$1.8 million at the auction). While you can't enter the Leica Archives, you can have a peek through the window at the museum.
5. Dive into the World of Leica at the Leica Galerie
The building itself could well be the poster child of Leitz Park with its familiar red dot and a design meant to mirror the shape of a film roll and a loose strip flowing out of it. But enter the bright space and you could easily spend a day here. There are numerous exhibitions here, including having a look at how Leica products are manufactured and assembled; the extensive collection of historical cameras and lenses; and of course, some of the best works of the Leica Hall of Fame Award 2018 recipient, which was given to American photographer Bruce Davidson (this one's only available till September 2018).
6. Shop at the Leica Store
Didn't see anything you want at the museum shop? There's more here, including the Huawei P20 smartphones (which features a Leica-powered camera), their wide range of cameras (including the Leitz Park-exclusive Leica M10, Leica Q and Leica D-Lux) and accessories, merchandise and the list goes on.
7. Take a break at Café Leitz
The Instagram-worthy spot doubles as a cafe offering some of the best coffees and teas as well as a wide range of biscuits and cakes baked by their very own master confectioner. Watch the day go by, run through the photos in your camera and just relax. It's been a long day, after all.
For more info, visit their website. Leica's Leitz Park is located at Am Leitz Park 5, 35578 Wetzlar, Hesse, Germany