Touching Light

Spanish lighting designer Arturo Alvarez experiments with materiality in new objects.

Lamps are generally not made to be touched, but taking the chance with Spanish lighting designer Arturo Alvarez’s Nevo lamp certainly pays off. The way it holds its vaguely floral shape suggests that it is made of a metal mesh, perhaps clogged with paint. But my hands encountered silicone, rendered almost skin-like and organic by the mild warmth of the bulb inside. Alvarez’s eponymous lighting company has been working for two years to get this material right. Silicone by itself couldn’t offer enough sculptural possibilities. But using it to cover metal gives it rigidity. The covering isn’t uniform, so the light that passes through is diffused unevenly. The material seems to have captivated Alvarez. He has used it for the roses of the Nevo collection, and as the stormy Planum ceiling lights. And the lamps he is developing for the Milan Furniture Fair this year will continue the love affair, albeit in more tightly structured surfaces.

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The latest application of the material was for a light installation at the City of Culture of Galicia. The installation was commissioned by interior designer Martin Azua, who also designs for Arturo Alvarez’s company. Three giant lamps illuminate the City of Culture’s reading and recreation space, which opened to the public last November.

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The forms of the lamps are inspired by Katharine Hepburn’s emotional monologue in Stage Door which begins, “The Calla lilies are in bloom again… such a strange flower, suitable for any occasion.” Alvarez’s lamps have seats clustered closely around them, so hopefully some visitor will brush against their warm, pleated surfaces, and be as pleasantly surprised as I was.

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