Architects are no strangers to product design, often fabricating bespoke hardware and furniture to complement their projects. Lighting components, however, tend to be overlooked in part because of the technical expertise required to work with electrical elements and generate balanced illumination. Among the intrepid firms delving into luminaire design, however, is Seattle-based Olson Kundig. There, partner Tom Kundig designs his own product line—in addition to his architectural work—including two new industrial-chic pendants in blackened steel, aptly named Pipe and Perf.
“Each piece of the collection celebrates the moments when people touch buildings and the spaces they inhabit,” Kundig told Architectural Lighting via email. “The focus of the collection stems from a deep interest in exploring the ways people interact with their environment.”
Olson Kundig has long been designing hardware and furniture as part of architectural commissions. The firm opened its doors in 1966 but it wasn’t until 2010 that it formalized its product-design business (whose work, in addition to cabinet and door hardware includes an intentionally off-kilter urn). In 2012, the firm teamed with an existing local metal-fabrication partner, 12th Avenue Iron, to create a product line. Thus, the Tom Kundig Collection was born. “Product design came about as a way to satisfy a need for intimately scaled hardware solutions that spoke the same design language as the architecture,” Kundig says.
Perf (above) and Pipe (left) are its latest additions. Each one measures 25 inches long and comes standard with a 6-foot cord. They were designed specifically for the product line, Kundig says, but were presented to a handful of clients during the prototyping phase and as a result wound up being included in a few projects. “That happens pretty often as we’re so excited about the products we’re developing, we can’t help letting the cat out of the bag,” he says.
Each fixture has a G10 socket that accepts an LED MR16 lamp, which can be accessed by sliding the shaft up the cord. The fixtures are supplied with a 3000K LED lamp. Kundig says the objective was to create a fixture that could be UL-listed in-house to keep costs down and that could be lamped with an LED light source for energy efficiency. The team faced a few challenges in ensuring reasonable light output, he adds, due primarily to the fixtures’ tall and slender form. “It forces the light to a narrow, more concentrated beam, which was great for a more focused pooling of light,” he says.
Achieving the random nature of the punctured diffuser that gives Perf its name and unique aesthetic was also a challenge with current digital fabrication technology, he says. To compensate, the team first created a prototype using a flat piece of paper and a laser cutter, adding and removing perforations until they got the look they were going for. They then mapped that design onto the metallic tube.
The luminaires' streamlined forms do less to counter than they do to complement the hefty geometries and industrial, metallic aesthetic of the studio's existing products.
“The contrast of textures, composition, and proportions can make something simple and ordinary into something quite beautiful,” Kundig says. “It is a desire for an unpretentious yet tactile encounter with the built environment. A wink and a nod to the elements that might otherwise be overly stylized or precious.”
This post has been updated.