Positioned at the intersection of materiality and immateriality, good lighting impacts both function and well-being – and in addition to serving a purpose, it should also, ideally, come in an aesthetically appealing package. That is the challenge for lighting manufacturers who are currently facing the task of combining new energy-conserving technologies with expressive design. The recent international Light & Building fair in Frankfurt demonstrated that new and innovative technical solutions still drive new lighting design but that there is also a considerable consumer demand for beautiful design that cannot be ignored – and even in the many cases where minimalist design dominates the agenda, there are few examples of lighting reduced to pure function. In fact, many of the new designs refer back to well-established traditional expressions, while old favourites are updated to new technological standards. That is the case, for example, at Louis Poulsen that has brought Poul Henningsen’s Artichoke lamp and other classics up to date with a specially-constructed LED light source.
‘The lamp requires a high-efficiency light source, and LED has only recently reached a level that we can rely on without compromising on the comfort and atmosphere of the incandescent light bulb version,’ says Louis Poulsen, which has updated most of its classic lamps to LED.
One conclusion after last year’s large lighting fair Euroluce in Milan was that the LED light source has made the original concept of traditional lamp design obsolete. According to several designers, LED invites us to rethink the size of the fittings, because the technology and the tiny bulbs make it possible to minimize the lamps. There are several possible answers to that challenge, however: one is to integrate the lighting into the architecture, the other is to restate the role of form and focus on designs that reach beyond pure function. Louis Poulsen has chosen the latter, and with Cirque the company has taken a playful turn. The organically shaped lamp with the soft pastels was created by the Swedish designer and graphic artist Clara von Zweigbergk, who was inspired by a visit to the Tivoli amusement part in Copenhagen. The lamp is compatible with the full range of LED light sources which lets buyers choose the light source they feel provides the best colour reproduction and light temperature in the room.
The playful element along with the progressively decorative, the unconventional, the authentic and the surprising are some of de trends characterizing the lighting scene right now. The Nordic region also has a strong focus on the function and clarity of expression along with an emphasis on craftsmanship and poetic qualities. The Danish lighting brand Lightyears, which pursues a clear design idiom, articulated by some of Denmark’s leading designers, aims for a toned-down but unique expression.
‘Stringent, organic shapes, an understated style and natural materials,’ says Design Manager Vibeke Mogensen, who also expects to see a revitalization of shapes from the 1950s and 1960s. This is backed up by several new products, including Avion, designed by Iskos-Berlin with inspiration from a childhood fascination with aircraft and Zeppelin airships. The large pendant lamp has a delicate floating appearance and emits a soft, diffuse light. The lamp, which fills the ‘interior airspace’, to quote the designers, also matches a current poetic trend.
The themes and materials are legion, but warm metals such as brass and copper remain relevant, as do veneer as well as coloured and opal glass. Glossy and brushed metallic surfaces, transparency, with a direct view to the light source, or materials with richly textured and tactile surfaces are also in play. One example of the latter is the new Vipp lamp series, designed by Morten Bo Jensen. The lamps are made in cast, powder-coated aluminium with details in stainless steel and a perforated lamp shade and create an expression that is simultaneously industrial and soft. The industrial look is also embraced by the design firm Anour, which creates simple lighting design using LED technology. Their lamps are handmade in iron, aluminium, brass and copper. The company’s latest design is the lamp series Divar, which combines a minimalist expression with a rustic surface.
In the midst of the euphoria about the new technology, several new lamp designs have popped up that celebrate the iconic incandescent light bulb – lamps where the bulb is the core design element. One luminescent example is Column from Frandsen Lighting, designed by Vanessa Lykke Eilert. She played with two popular materials, marble and coloured glass, and explains that the lamp serves the same purpose as a candle, and that the aesthetic expression is the defining aspect of the design.
A similar aesthetic emphasis is pursued by Rewired, a new independent brand under Frandsen Project, which designs, develops and manufactures lighting for hotels and other buyers around the world.
‘The visual expression is key, and we view the LED technology as a natural and integrated condition,’ comments Thomas Hansen, the director of Rewired, who has spent years perfecting the design, development and manufacturing, which takes place in Denmark.
‘Denmark has proud artisanal and design traditions, and Rewired is rooted in these traditions. Rewired is about beautiful lighting, locally created at an international level by experts with great attention to detail,’ says Thomas Hansen and adds,
‘Based on projects by the world’s leading interior and product designers, we launch a series of products that previously were exclusively available on the contract market.’