Flickr Widget

Monday, September 20, 2010

Shedding new light

Another extreme departure from the ornate design of earlier periods was in the area of lighting. Many of the major furniture designers created lamps and hanging light fixtures as well. Like other pieces of the period, their lighting was characterized by sleek lines and innovative shapes and materials. Plastic, in particular, fascinated not only the general public but also many of the designers of the day.

George Nelson's bubble lamps have become symbols of the period. He designed them in 1947, and they were in production until the late 1970s. He never gave specific names to the lamps. Rather, they were referred to by numbers. The large saucer was, for example, known only as "Bubble Lamp H-727." When Modernica was allowed to reissue the lamps in the 1990s, they gave them the names Ball, Saucer, Pear, Cigar, etc. In 1998, Modernica received all the original tooling from Herman Miller, and they distribute the lamps worldwide.

Isamu Noguchi designed his well-known cylinder lamp in 1944 and began working on Akari lighting in 1951. In an interview, he explained:

The name akari, which I coined, means in Japanese light as illumination. It also suggests lightness as opposed to weight. The ideograph combines that of the sun and moon. The ideal of akari is exemplified with lightness (as essence) and light (for awareness). The quality is poetic, ephemeral, and tentative. Looking more fragile than they are akari seem to float, casting their light as in passing.

Poul Henningsen's famous artichoke fixture, as well as his halo pendant, are still extremely popular today and are being reproduced or copied by a number of companies and offered in varying price ranges.

Other lighting designers whose lamps and fixtures are synonymous with mid-century are Marion Geller, Gilbert Watrous and Gerald Thurston. Variations of their designs have become so widely recognized that we sometimes forget their innovative ideas revolutionized modern lighting. Their use of tripod bases, cone-shaped, perforated and dome shades in plastic, metal and glass became the standard for much mid-century lighting style.

George Nelson lighting display offered to retailers free of charge by Herman Miller
From a sales brochure, c. 1968

Isamu Noguchi's cylinder lamp

Marion Geller's flying saucer-shaped reflector lamp with tripod base

Poul Henningsen's artichoke light

Gerald Thurston's tripod lamp

Gilbert Watrous's ball-and-socket lamp
 with magnet that held the ball in any position

No comments:

Post a Comment