In 1925, a new kind of luminaire took the Paris Exhibition by storm. It was a lamp with three layers of glass shade, curved to direct glare downwards and imbue its surroundings with soft, pleasing light. Nothing like it had been seen before. The lamp duly won a
gold medal, and its creator was propelled to lighting
The luminaire, which became known as the Paris Lamp,
was the embodiment of Poul Henningsen’s conviction
that people should not be subjected to direct glare from
an electric light source. He concentrated his efforts on
shaping and arranging multiple shades to conceal the
incandescent lamp, controlling and diffusing the light
to harmonious effect.
In Henningsen’s work, engineering rigour met cultural
aesthetic as he researched furiously but with an artistic
desire to ‘beautify’the home
It was a simple idea that proved to be enormously
influential. The Paris Lamp, produced in collaboration
with Danish manufacturer Louis Poulsen, was the
prototype for Henningsen’s multi-shade system that
would define his luminaires for decades to come.
Crucially, the idea was a perfect fit for Louis
Poulsen’s philosophy of ‘function, comfort and
ambience’. The lamp was an ideal candidate for mass
production, making it widely affordable and helping
to ensure its uptake.
The lifelong partnership between Henningsen
and Louis Poulsen would make Henningsen rich
and gift us with the legendary PH-lamp family of
Poul Henningsen, or PH, as he was commonly known,
was born in 1894 in the town of Hillerød to the north
of Copenhagen. He was the son of Agnes Henningsen,
a writer and notorious activist for sexual freedom. He
spent much of his life believing his father was Mads
Henningsen, a schoolteacher who was Agnes’s first
husband. In fact his biological father was the satirical
Danish author Carl Ewald.