January 1, 2005
Hector Serrano talks about the design of his Waterproof lamp for Metalarte.
Hector Serrano’s concept was straightforward: he wanted a light fixture that worked in water. So he quickly shifted from designing for the bathroom to developing a waterproof and battery-operated floating lamp for the pool, simply called Waterproof. “The lamp really came alive when I figured out that the design should come from a ready-made, like a life-buoy light that you see in the water,” Serrano says. “The final design is a combination of a buoy and a traditional lamp shade.” We asked Serrano to explain his clever design, which is manufactured by the innovative Spanish lighting manufacturer Metalarte (www.metalarte.com) and available in North America from Hinson Lighting, in Queens, New York (212-475-4100; 718-482-1100).
It’s made of rotation-molded polyethylene; we initially thought the object was too small to be made using that process. We thought of using injection molding, but that proved more expensive and a bit complicated. It turned out that Metalarte was manufacturing another object at the time that used rotational molding. They got a lot of feedback on the process and finally figured out they could do Waterproof that way.
This lamp can be used in swimming pools, lakes, fountains, or any other water settings. I actually didn’t design a new lamp—what I designed is the context. It’s clear this is the archetype of a table lamp, but instead of putting it on your bedside table you use it in a pool. I tried to keep it close to the archetype of a table lamp so that people would immediately know what it is.
The stick-shaped bottom also acts as a handle that suggests how you use it. You grab the lamp from the handle and throw it into the swimming pool, much the way a buoy is thrown overboard. The interaction between the lamp and the person who’s throwing it is one of the magical aspects of the object. It’s a nice effect when it goes under the water and then bobs up.
The light source is an incandescent bulb with a very small screw fitting. We are working on substituting the bulb with an LED, which lasts longer and is much stronger.
I tried other mock-ups with more abstract and figurative shapes, but the intensity of light from a battery is not that strong. So instead of trying to get more intensity from the light, I concentrated on dealing with the iconic side of the project. The moment you draw on the archetype of the table lamp, it becomes a table light even if the light is not that strong.
In the beginning I wanted to have it be rechargeable with a solar panel because it’s an outdoor lamp. That made sense, but it wasn’t cost effective, so the lamp comes with a rechargeable battery adapter instead. It shines for eight hours at a time.
The battery is stored in the rectangular base. I used a principle similar to the design of a buoy, where the battery acts as a ballast for stability.