driving conditions and tell the local authority when
the roads need to be gritted. Indoor lights could track
shoppers and then send them marketing messages on
But it’s miniaturisation, not intelligence, that is driving
aesthetics. As LEDs and their associated electronics get
smaller, product designers have growing freedom to
create luminaires that were simply not possible before.
In some cases this results in whimsy, but hey, the world
needs a bit of whimsy right now. The playful Yanzi
unveiled by Artemide – always a go-to stand at Light
+ Building – is a case in point. Designed by Shanghai-based architect and design duo Lyndon Neri and
Rossana Hu of Neri&Hu (Lighting Vol 50 No 1), it’s
what lighting manufacturers are increasingly calling a
‘system’, a family of components that can be put together
to create, in this case, a graphical structure of branches
and perches, on which can sit stylised swallow-like
birds. The birds, some of whom perch free and some
of whom are in ‘cages’, have brushed brass bodies,
with their heads a glowing glass sphere. Designed to
animate a space, the lightweight compositions have a
quirkiness and a poetry that’s rare in lighting.
Also on the Artemide stand was the Ipno, a design by
the legendary Michele De Lucchi, the man who gave
the company the iconic and spectacularly successful
Tolomeo desk lamp back in 1986. The Ipno appears
to blend modernity and heritage in a suspended clear
glass body. Inside the hand-blown crystal, an optical
unit directs and concentrates the light on to a glazed
part of the bottom surface of the outer body to diffuse
and open it up with soft direct emission.
The glazed surface conceals the inside of the optical
device from direct sight to prevent glare while the
inner optical unit works according to the principle
of total internal reflection. It comes to life when light
passes through the material, but only a minimum rate
of light is emitted into the environment in a diffused
and uncontrolled manner.
Artemide’s other outstanding creation was Calipso, by
Scottish designer Neil Poulton. The unique honeycomb
grill was apparently generated by feeding a photo of
the moon into an image-based algorithm found on a
seemingly extinct computer.
The resulting fractal shape, an impure geometry
that displays the irregular beauty of nature, is built
from an organic honeycomb of different diameter
tubes, seemingly arranged in a random geometry.
This honeycomb pattern characterises the lamp both
aesthetically and optically – not only is it visually
arresting, but it softens the light.
Poulton was mentored by Philippe Starck, who these
days does much of his work for Artemide’s arch rival