The Retro Future

The LED has a long way to go before it replaces the incandescent bulb, but ­designers have clearly taken a shine to the energy-efficient underdog. Aided by improvements in light-emitting semiconductors, they’ve created new varieties of futuristic-looking task lamps for such big-name manufacturers as Herman Miller, Luceplan, and Artemide.

Lucesco is now launching one of the first LED general-purpose lights, an elegant ambient table lamp by German designer Sven Adolph—the first in a series that marries traditional lines with technological innovation. Christened the Sven, the light will be available next month, with full production set for January 2007; a floor-standing version, a ceiling fixture, and two Noguchi-style lanterns will follow. We asked Adolph to discuss his design, which makes its debut this month in Metropolis.

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We first showed the light at the Milan Fair in three prototypes—white, black, and Chinese red lacquer—and we got very good feedback. The interior is painted white, a common technique to maximize the light output. As a special feature on the antique-red one, we want to paint the interior gold to achieve a warmer glow.

The shades hang on this 45-degree angled piece that is really the central component of the lamp, what we call the light engine, which contains 24 LEDs that shine down and 16 that shine up, all of which are operated by one circuit board to save costs.

We originally called the lamp Wink, but the name was already copyrighted. Lucesco referred to it as the Sven lamp while we were working on the project, which somehow stuck. I felt ambivalent at first, but since everybody else liked it, I went along.

The shade is divided into two pieces, an upper part and a lower part. It is a reference to Danish lights made in the 1950s and ’60s that look like blinds. I wanted to animate the shade, so I created this slit that is illuminated from the inside by LEDs.

One big problem with LEDs is that they get very hot, especially if you put 20 or 30 in one area. In the lamp’s design the LEDs are spaced generously around a circle so that the heat is distributed evenly.

The lamp is made of spun aluminum. (We are working on other translucent shade materials, such as paper, glass, and porcelain.) The construction is modular, so you can hang different kinds of shades from the basic structure.

There are quite a few LED lamps that use sensor technology to turn on and off, but we wanted something more mechanical. This flaglike switch makes a little clicking sound when you go from one position to the next. At first I envisioned the flag on the pole, but it proved too difficult to achieve, not to mention hard to see if you were standing up and the lamp was low. Therefore, we moved the switch down to the base. Since the whole lamp is circular, it made sense to use that real estate for a switch.

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