April 1, 2010
A Brighter Future
Antonio Citterio harnesses the experimental power of LEDs to design a new generation of lighting for Flos.
Antonio Citterio compares lighting before the LED to the candle, with its limited flame. “You had a bulb and a reflector to control the light source,” says the Italian architect, who has just released his first LED designs, an outdoor-lighting collection and a table lamp, for Flos. “The shape around the bulb was the design. Now it’s totally different. We have an opportunity to create a new icon.”
To that end, he enlisted engineers at Flos to help reformulate his Kelvin T table lamp (originally introduced in 2003) with the latest technology. Most distinctively, the lamp now has a flat head, but every component has been reconsidered. The arm is slimmer, with most of the cable tucked inside. Because the head is so much lighter, the spring is smaller. “Even the on-off switch—now it’s on the edge, and it’s a touch sensor,” Citterio says. “We worked on this lamp for more than two years. It’s easy to say what you want, but you need engineers around you to help you figure out how to do it. This is designing in a new way. Before, lamps had conventional parts—someone produced the bulbs, someone produced the electronics, and you put them all together. Nothing really changed for fifty years. Now it’s more complicated, more experimental.”
Citterio designed the forms of the Belvedere outdoor collection to blend into a natural setting. “The language is really smooth, soft—really reduced,” he says. “You want to see the moon in the garden but not the lamps.” Though the collection is being released with LEDs, it can also be produced with traditional bulbs, which may prove more viable in the short term. The round head of one of the lamps, for example, perfectly accomodates a standard fluorescent ring, and the bell shapes of the others work nicely with halogen. “The timing is absolutely right for desk lamps, but LEDs are not as economical for outdoors,” Citterio says. Still, consumers won’t have to wait long. “Every six months there are new developments. LEDs are improving in the same way as flat-screen TVs and computers. Who would produce a TV with cathode rays now?”