Ross Lovegrove considers himself more of an evolutionary biologist than a designer, and what he means by this is made clearer by the new family of light fixtures—Cosmic Collection—he has created for Artemide. The fourth series he has designed for the company, the protozoan forms of Cosmic Collection's three luminaires appear as if molded from specimens of primitive life forms. First, there is Cosmic Leaf, a pendant whose expanding figure could have been a rather sleek paramecium. Cosmic Angel is a wall-mounted fixture whose undulating waffled surface resembles a manta ray in motion. And then there is Cosmic Ocean, a chandelier whose multitudinous suspended elements glow like microorganisms seen through a microscope, or perhaps like plankton caught in a ray of light.

But genetic engineering might be a better way to describe the design process Lovegrove has used to create the Cosmic Collection. As was the case with his previous series for Artemide—Mercury, introduced at Euroluce 2007—Lovegrove took impressions from nature and employed 3D software, which is his design tool of choice, to experiment and develop highly complex tessellated surfaces and shapes. The data from these computer models was then transposed directly into milled surfaces. Similar to the Mercury family, the Cosmic fixtures do not function like your typical luminaire. “Cosmic itself relates to entities which capture light in the darkness of space,” Lovegrove says. “My designs do not emit light, they capture projected light like a sun onto a distant planet.”

The Cosmic Ocean fixture designed by Ross Lovegrove for Artemide.

While Lovegrove looked to extraterrestrial as well as oceanic and botanical structures to find formal inspiration for his designs, hands-on testing was required to make sure they would function as intended. To do this, he used a 3D printer at his London-based studio to create prototypes directly from the computer models. Once he had a physical model in hand, he could try out different surface treatments to achieve the desired planetary glow, think about an ideal material, and see how a given shape responded to projected light from different sources including LEDs and halogen lamps.

Working with his in-house team, as well as with the dedicated engineers from Artemide, Lovegrove settled on a liquid finish, slightly matte to hold light, over thermoformed plastic. That material's lightness, flexibility, and economy won out over metal. Lovegrove and his team experimented with a variety of forms and scales until they found shapes and sizes that were satisfying. Prototypes were made from the digital models using a 3D printer in Lovegrove's London studio.

Cosmic Angel has a silver surface for capturing light and a white surface for reflecting and distributing it. Cosmic Leaf comes in a transparent frosted version for an ethereal effect. The injection-molded acrylic “leaves” that make up the Cosmic Ocean chandelier capture the light of LEDs projected through their edges.

Lovegrove began developing the Cosmic series two years ago as part of his ongoing interest in 3D digital surfaces. With an already established working relationship, he pitched the idea to Artemide, who loved it and immediately began the process of prototyping and development.

Lovegrove visits the company's facilities in Italy about once a month for design reviews. Once the forms are completed, the final computer models are plugged straight into Artemide's computer milling machines. “There is no ambiguity in this process,” says Lovegrove. “The generated data is as valuable as the final pieces. It cultivates a type of self-referencing art form, a self-stimulating sequence of discovery within the team.”

Project Cosmic Collection
Designer Ross Lovegrove
Manufacturer Artemide