In what was considered a lackluster showing by major furniture manufacturers at Milan’s Salone del Mobile this past April, Euroluce, the biennial lighting show, stood out with a special brilliance. In terms of technical innovation and creative thinking, lighting has seized the lead. Advances in solid-state lighting have generated much of this excitement and LEDs propelled almost all of the product introductions on view. It was a striking contrast to Euroluce 2011, where LEDs were in wide evidence, but the designs were mostly one-note. This year, however, imagination took wing, and all manner of shapes and forms appeared. According to Ilse Crawford, the English designer and a professor at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands, furniture is passé; lighting is the field her students want to pursue.
Product revivals from a manufacturer’s archives often play a role in a company’s new product offerings, but this year’s reissues meant major technical re-engineering to accommodate LED technology. The biggest splash was made by Flos, who reissued five fixtures by Gino Sarfatti, Italy’s great 20th-century designer. Arteluce, the company he founded in 1939, was sold to Flos in 1973. Flos owns the rights to the Sarfatti archives, which it spotlighted at an exhibition of more than 600 of the designer’s creations at Milan’s Triennale Museum last fall. Rather than simply reproducing the forms and substituting an LED for the original incandescent source, Flos reengineered the lamps completely to accommodate the intricate relationship between diode, heatsink, reflector, and optical dimming sensor switch—a task Flos president Piero Gandini describes “as a very long and complex endeavor.” The first collection, which includes Model Nos. 548, 1063, 607, 1095, and 2129, is simply called Edition No. 1, and alerts us that more is to come.
Ingo Maurer also reached back into his archive and selected a 1970 design he created with Peter Hamburg simply called Light Structure: six glass tubes connected and held in tension by insulated wire. For this reissue, Maurer has replaced the luminaire’s incandescent lamps with LEDs.
So integral has LED technology become to lighting that many companies have refitted best sellers, no matter how recent—or old—they are. Case in point: Pallucco’s reissue of the classic Fortuny Giudecca 805 floor lamp, originally designed in 1907. The metal fixture with it’s fabric cotton shade is now outfitted with a dimmable 48W LED.
This year, more designers created pieces that were either one-of-a-kind or limited editions. A new company, Wonderglass, made its debut, introducing chandeliers by Nendo, Jaime Hayon, Nao Tamua, and Zaha Hadid, whose work was in wide evidence throughout the Salone. Hadid’s dramatic light sculpture, Swarm—a chandelier composed of intricately layered suspended black crystals—was especially brilliant.
Architects Building Light
Besides Hadid, other starchitects also played a role. Artemide produced work by Daniel Libeskind and Jean Nouvel, whose Objective table lamp is composed of three cylindrical volumes, all in painted aluminum, and hide the complexities of the technology within.
English designer Lee Broom set up shop in the center of Milan where he sold his 3.5-inch-tall cut crystal, traditional bulbs to all comers. His wares will fit any standard fixture and come either frosted or clear; sold singly or with a bright brass pendant fitting.
Technology and new fabrication processes were also in evidence. Ingo Maurer used 3D printing technology to create the form for his Knot floor and table lamps, which are made of polyamide, steel, and aluminum.
Daniel Rybakken’s Ascent table lamp for Luceplan turns on or off and adjusts in intensity simply by sliding the shade up or down, a feat accomplished by the use of a precise dimmer located in its head.