Northern lights

This year’s Euroluce lighting fair in Milan showed British design in a very flattering light. Nicky Churchill selects the products which really turned her on.

We all know that British design is “in” at the moment but, nonetheless, it was something of a surprise to see so many British (or British-trained) designers at this year’s Euroluce light fair in Milan. It’s the Italian manufacturers that have particularly benefited from our talent – Ross Lovegrove with two new fittings for Luceplan; Jasper Morrison and Konstantin Grcic for Flos (which has now brought Arteluce and Flight into the main company); Sebastian Bergne for Oluce; Sir Norman Foster and Neil Poulton for Artemide Architectural; and the mysterious Charles Williams for FontanaArte – a reclusive British designer, we are told.

Many of the products are simple and stylish. Morrison’s Glo-ball for Flos, for example, is a simple white circular glass orb in various sizes used either as a suspended fitting, or as a floor or table lamp; while Bergne’s Lid pendant fitting for Oluce is a circular aluminium shade with sand-blasted glass diffuser.

Others appear more technical such as Lovegrove’s two new outdoor lights for Luceplan. Solar Bud is a small outdoor fitting – 150mm diameter – resembling an oversized golf tee which you simply stick in the ground. The difference is that it is solar-powered with a battery that charges up during the day to provide light at night. There are no wires to get in the way of the lawn mower, and you can place it at will on the lawn or near paths. OK, so it’s not a new idea (I spotted a similar concept in a home-shopping catalogue recently), but it’s certainly a very stylish adaptation.

More commercial perhaps is the amorphous Pod Lens, also by Lovegrove and also for use outdoors. This is an injection-moulded polycarbonate fitting with prismatic sides, which can be placed on a pole, hung from a tree or clamped to a wall – you can even bring it indoors. According to UK agent Catalytico there has been much interest in this product, but it won’t be available here until July.

Even more complex is the latest system to join Artemide’s Human Light programme – the first was the Metamorfosi polychromatic lighting system launched two years ago. Ra System, designed by Sir Norman Foster, is a multi functional and programmable fitting aimed at the office environment.

And it’s not just a light fitting. Its modular construction also has the option to accommodate motion sensors, fire and smoke sensors, air conditioning systems, telephone lines and a public address system. It will even incorporate lights from the Metamorfosi system. The modules can be specified both as individual elements or as a continuous run, with the added advantage that each module can be tailored to suit an individuals personal needs. It can be fixed directly to the ceiling, suspended or fitted flush into the false ceiling of a new building and, according to Foster, has been “designed as much to look down on as to look up at”.

THE larger Italian companies each launched between ten and 15 fittings. Technical systems, decorative pendants, office and home lights were all represented.

This was the year of the task light, nowhere more prominent than at Artemide which is celebrating 25 years of Richard Sapper’s classic Tizio design. But the best of the bunch for me was Fortebraccio, designed by Alberto Meda and Paolo Rizzatto for Luceplan. This is an engineered task light in cast metal which moves both horizontally and vertically. It works beautifully. The head can carry a variety of different light sources, including fibre optics, and it has sizeable grip which also holds the switch or dimmer. It will be available here through Catalytico, some time in the autumn.

Worth a mention, though not new (it was launched at the Valencia fair last autumn), is the Douglas task light by Gabriel Teixidò for Spanish manufacturer Carpyen. Beautifully crafted and made from anodised aluminium, it comes with one or two arms and clamp, wall socket or floor base. Contact PS Interiors for more information.

Italiana Luce launched Bridge, by Barbaglia and Colombo, a lighting system on parallel cables. It can be used with one or two conducting wires, the latter providing the option of using alternating current. Various wall and ceiling fixings allow the cables to be strung across large spaces either horizontally or at different angles. It can accommodate a variety of fittings, including uplighters or suspended spots. Further details are available from Ambience.

From Fontana Arte comes the Kodo light programme, which has been three years in development. This is a comprehensive range of wall and ceiling-mounted fittings, and suspended and pole-mounted options for use internally or externally. It has a pure polished aluminium reflector for maximum efficiency, a glass or polycarbonate screen, and a practical closing hinge instead of the traditional screws. There are two sizes – 360mm diameter and a smaller version at 120mm – and it also accommodates different light sources. Kodo will be available here through Cavigioli.

On a more decorative note, Ingo Maurer showed his new collection, MaMoNouchies, a collaboration with Dagmar Mombach and team, once again wowing visitors through his innovative use of materials. Taking inspiration from a traditional Japanese textile technique, the team has transformed what starts off as a plain sheet of paper into different shapes, simply by folding and pulling the paper. The result is an extremely versatile material which has been used to form exquisite shades for pendants or table lamps. There are 12 pieces in the new collection and each one is unique. Contact Catalytico for further details.

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