Three iconic products demonstrate my point. I have
always admired Frisbi, a pendant light designed by
Achille Castiglioni in 1978 and manufactured by Flos.
It is a deceptively simple disc of polycarbonate that
conceals the bulb, suspended by fine steel cable from
a black painted steel plate for the ceiling fitting. The hole
at the centre of the disc diffuses the light so you never
see the bulb. It is shapely, simple and elegant.
The Anglepoise lamp transcends fashion, finding
new fans with successive generations. Designed by
automotive engineer George Carwardine in the 1930s,
its beauty is in the ingenuity of its movement, endearing
it to young and old alike. The Arco floor lamp, also
manufactured by Flos and designed by Achille and
Pier Castiglioni, epitomises 1960s styling but succeeds
in creating a sense of timelessness, with its polished
marble base, adjustable tubular stem and brushed
Designing a luminaire that is both functional and
easy on the eye requires a sophisticated understanding
of the interplay between light and materials. In my
designs I employ metal – the perfect material for
use with LEDs because carefully engineered metal
components can help remove the excess heat generated
by the LEDs. Although incredibly strong, the metal can
also be very thin, opening up many creative sculptural
The Frisbi demonstrates that plastic has potential
when used proportionately and appropriately. Zaha
Hadid’s Genesy floor lamp for Artemide is such a case.
Made from injection-moulded foam polyurethane, the
lamp has a fluid design that integrates the supporting
elements as part of the complex organic shaping.
Currently wood is playing a significant role in lighting
design. It sits with the desire for natural materials,
but it can be overplayed, and dark and light wood
combinations often look clunky and out of kilter with
the light projected.
The lighting material I probably most admire is glass.
I love the reflections it creates. At its best, a chandelier
is magical – a crafted masterpiece in crystal, where
the designer has calculated how and where the light
will refract and fall. LEDs are an excellent substitute
for candles, well suited for combining with modern
Sustainability has become a fashionable selling point,
although I believe it is a frequently misused and
misunderstood concept. Sustainable design involves
energy efficiency and use of recyclable materials,
certainly. But to me, a sustainable product is first and
foremost one that lasts a long time. No user wants the
hassle and expense of continuously changing lamps or
fittings. It’s also bad for the environment.
This is an area where LEDs really come into their own.
When I decided to investigate LED potential, I found
a lot of misinformation about the technology. (There
still is in terms of some manufacturers’ performance
claims.) But I knew that if we could reduce the heat
emission and thereby cool the actual LED, we should be
able to develop a light that might last for 150,000 hours
or more. A light that would maintain its original lumen
output throughout its life. The trick was adapting the
heat pipe cooling techniques used in early satellite
development to lighting.
The CSYS task light was the result, and we have further
developed the technology for the Ariel suspension
luminaire. The lifespan of Ariel will exceed any existing
LED suspension light.
New technologies are changing the way we think
about lighting interior and exterior spaces. Scientists,
technologists, doctors and psychologists are exchanging
ideas about how lighting affects health and cognitive
performance. It’s a time when the rule book is being
thrown out and experiment is encouraged in many
convergent fields that will bring tangible change to a
But I hope the allure of the science does not obscure
the fundamental virtues of good engineering, good use
of materials and imagination. All the things that go to
create a design classic that will stand the test of time.
‘Imagine lighting that feels so natural it is
like sitting in the sunshine, basking in its
rays. Light that you can program to rise and
shine for you, according to your schedule’