‘The light of a lamp made out of
paper is always special’
Opposite: inspired by a Japanese manga story about
a boy fishing, Sampei began as a solution to a problem
Above: the paper Baloo, Groppi’s first lamp and
high jumper and gold medallist Dick Fosbury, inventor
of the Fosbury Flop, who raised the bar, so to speak,
when he introduced the novel idea of propelling
himself over it backwards.
Groppi’s cultural influences are eclectic. His famous
Sampei floor lamp, a 2011 collaboration between
Groppi and Enzo Calabrese, was inspired by a Japanese
manga, but it began with a challenge: how to create a
suspension lamp based on the ground rather than the
ceiling. (It was the ingenious resolution of this problem
that earned Groppi another Compasso d’Oro award.)
Sampei is one of Groppi’s most beautiful and
aesthetically memorable creations. The idea came
from a popular cartoon called Tsurikichi Sanpei, or
Fishing Enthusiast Sanpei, a story about a young boy
with a gift for fishing. It is, indeed, a kind of fishing
rod – the elements are wedged together in a telescopic
system, anchored at the base with a joint detail.
But Calabrese prefers to liken it instead to a slender
blade of grass, its fibreglass stalk swaying and bending
like a reed in the breeze.
Groppi continues to explore his established themes
while introducing new ways for people to engage and
interact with light. His 2016 PoPuP audio table lamp,
for example, combines LED lighting with a wireless
audio speaker – light and music in one elegant package.
The lamp is a toadstool birthed by a mathematician,
creating a circle of light that illuminates the stem while
leaving the diffuser mysteriously dark.
Most recently, Infinito is an extreme example of a
source that has been all but dematerialised. It’s simply
a thin strip of metal alloy that cuts through the air,
wafting indirect light as it goes. Like the grin of the
Cheshire cat, it hangs in space, poised to disappear
at any moment. The cultural influence is the work of
Italio-Argentine artist Lucio Fontana, whose Spatial
Concepts played with ideas about ‘slashing’ through
space to create emotional responses.
With the likes of Nulla and Infinito in the world, it’s
hard to imagine where Groppi can go next in his quest
for absolute light. It’s hard to imagine how much ‘less’
a lighting product can be.