Electrifying Design: A Century of Lighting

by | Sep 30, 2021 | News

The High Museum of Art in Atlanta is featuring the exhibit, “Electrifying Design A Century of Lighting. Recently I took the trip to Atlanta and witnessed these luminaires first hand.

This exhibition examines key contributions by international lighting designers and manufacturers through the lens of three ideas—Typologies, The Bulb, and Quality of Light. Throughout the exhibition, the most compelling, innovative, influential, and, sometimes, earliest expressions of a concept can be seen both as functional works and as awe-inspiring forms that delight.

Anodized aluminum, painted aluminum, steel, and bulb
GAETANO PESCE (Italian, born 1939) designer
BRACCIODIFERRO Italian, active 1971-1975 manufacturer
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund

In 1971, Gaetano Pesce was inspired to design an oversize lamp because there were few standing lamps that could illuminate pubic spaces for large interiors. Rather than create something new, he decided to base his lamp on an existing one—designer Jac Jacobsen’s iconic L-1 Adjustable Table Lamp of 1937, which was inspired by George Carwardine’s Anglepoise Lamp, on view in this gallery. Pesce ultimately increased the original’s scale and details by a factor of four to create the Moloch Floor Lamp.

Moooi Works, Dutch, established ca. 2009 designer
Moooi Dutch, established 2001 manufacturer
Moooi, New York

In 2018, the design firm Moooi challenged its in-house design team to create the ultimate chandelier. The resulting Mega Chandelier is so overwhelming in its scale and image that the visual impact of the whole swallows its parts. Moooi’s team included various individual chandelier typologies in the overall composition to offer a stylistic mini history of the form.

Polyamide, stainless steel, and bulb
Ron Arad (Israeli, born 1951) designer and maker
Centre Pompidou, gift of the Societe des Amis Du Musee National d’Art Moderne, 2003

In 2000, architect and designer Ron Arad designed the Ge-Off Sphere Hanging Light using rapid prototype technologies (also known as 3D printing). Here, he deploys this technology to reimagine the ceiling lamp as a flexible, adjustable form. Printed in polyamide, the lamp can be stretched or compressed by hand, allowing the user to customize its shape, depending on the needs of a room. The central bulb reflects light upward or downward, illuminating the coils, whether unraveled or stacked, above or below it.

DESIGNED 1978, MADE CA, 1985-1989
Fiberglass, enamel, steel, rubber, and 40-watt incandescent bulbs
MARTINE BEDIN (French, born 1957) designer
MEMPHIS MILANO Italian, active 1981-1988 manufacturer
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase funded by the Design Council, 2020

Martine Bedin displays bulbs with a sense of whimsy in her Super Lamp for the Italian design collective Memphis. Resembling a streamlined toy car, the rounded base is crowned with a row of similarly shaped bulbs with differentcolored socket collars. The lamp is more sculptural when unlit, but the warmth of the illuminated, exposed bulbs matches the exuberance of the design. The result is that even while displaying the bare bulb, Bedin indicates that lighting can be more than simply utilitarian—it can express ideas of play and wonder, all while maintaining its core function.

This article was originally featured in the August issue of designing lighting (dl)