Self-Lumination

Neil Poulton’s latest lighting design was the product of technical ingenuity, exhaustive trial and error—and self-interest. “I am the main client,” he says. “It was designed for me.” The Paris-based Scottish designer wanted an adjustable lamp that would cast a wash of light over his desk but could be easily moved out of the way when not in use. After experimenting with concepts over several months, he built a deceptively simple-looking system: a plastic-encased fluorescent tube that cantilevers on a thin chrome stem. Produced by Artemide and now available in the United States, the Talak series includes table, clamp, and wall-mounted versions, and the Italian lighting giant plans to introduce a floor-standing model as well as new colors—anthracite, matte silver, and fluorescent orange—at Euroluce this spring. Here the designer takes us through the intricacies of the Talak.

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The first prototypes had extruded profiles, but Artemide’s owner, Ernesto Gismondi, said, “We’ve got to manufacture it so that it can’t be copied.” So we switched to a single piece of lightweight plastic shaped in a mold that is enormous, very long, and very narrow. At first we encountered a lot of problems because the pieces would twist as they came out of the mold.

I chose a T2 fluorescent for the tube’s reduced size and low power consumption. It’s actually really good for what I do—­making ­models, prototypes, or drawings—because your hand doesn’t cast a shadow over what you’re working on.

All the technology, including the ballast, is in the head rather than on the cable or in the base. That’s one of the reasons the head is so long. But there’s also a practical aspect to the length: you need light to be in the center of your desk, not on the edges.

The logic behind the design was that anything horizontal is white and anything vertical is chrome. If you put a chrome tube in a room, it picks up the reflections of everything around it and in effect disappears; the head tahen appears to float.

The magic is that you don’t know what’s holding the head up and why it doesn’t slide down the tube. It’s just a simple cantilever, and the internal mechanism is a sheet-steel spring.

More than two heads can be stacked on the pole to create a central lighting support.

The head can slide up and down, and rotate 360 degrees.

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