When Davide Groppi designs a lamp, his intention is to ‘surprise with less’. And it doesn’t get much less than a tiny hole in the ceiling. Nulla – whose very name
means nothing – is the ultimate expression of a design
philosophy in which the light is everything and the
source is a means to an end. As Groppi puts it, Nulla is
‘the negation of all that can be considered design’.
Of course, it’s an illusion – an ingenious sleight of hand
that deceives the viewer into perceiving only the light
itself, until they look up and see the tiny, twinkling star
in the ceiling. Behind that star the wizard is pulling
the levers – LED technology and a system of lenses
direct light down through an 18mm hole, creating
a fall of light that appears almost magical. But that’s
the point. Groppi wants nothing to distract from the
beauty and mystery of the light.
Davide Groppi was born in 1963 in Piacenza, a city
in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy not far from
Milan. He was a child of the generation that shook
off post-war gloom by reinventing modernism;
free-thinking designers teamed up with progressive
manufacturing start-ups to produce an explosion of
avant-garde lighting and furniture. In Davide Groppi,
the two strands came neatly together. He claimed the
freedom to deliver light exactly the way he wanted by
becoming his own producer.
Groppi has had no formal training in design, but an
important early influence was his father – a product
of wartime ‘make do and mend’ austerity. ‘My father
taught me not only how to put things together and
create from spare parts, but also how to appreciate
beauty and construct things solidly,’ he says. ‘Together,
we built a pinball machine, a telegraph – and a lamp.’
The desire to do something with less has clearly
remained with him all his life.
In 1985 he set up a small laboratory in Piacenza and
began experimenting in the field of mechanical design.
It was only in 1988 that he began to focus on lamps.
‘I don’t really know why it had to be lamps and not
something else,’ he says. ‘One thing is for sure – lamps
gave me a great opportunity to express my personality
and make a practical living of it.’
Nulla (pictured previous page with Groppi) and Infinito (left) explore
two fundamental states of light: direct and indirect, respectively