There have been many attempts to banish cables from the world. The most high-profile bid came in 2019 with the arrival of Apple’s AirPods. Sleek and quickly adopted, they brought to mind a premonition uttered by legendary French designer Philippe Starck years before. Everything that is unessential must go.
And yet, for every modernising movement, there exists a counter-resistance. A collection of plucky individuals determined to preserve what went before. In design, they include some of the biggest names in contemporary lighting. The arguments they put forth are intriguing. What if the humble wire, so long ignored, was the key to tracing out architectural focal points? The starting point for a new language of luminosity? We caught up with a couple of such creatives, here…
“We always say look back to look forward,” explains Andrea Trimarchi, one half of Dutch design studio, Formafantasma. “After, all it’s impossible to design the future without looking to what happened before.”
It’s a philosophy that has brought them rather neatly to their latest creation for Flos. Building on the success of their Wiring Wall Light, Wireline is a hybrid ceiling-cum-pendant light, capable of inviting Cirque de Soleil style drama into the home.
“Every author has an obsession and light is ours. We like that it’s intangible, but also technical and emotional. For us, lighting is the most exciting sector of design.”
Suspended between the looping leather cables is a horizontal ribbed bulb — a glamorous counterpart to the otherwise industrial cables. A true objet de art, it can be slung in all kinds of settings, from industrious workshops to elegant stairways.
Adaptability was also on the mind of Konstantin Grcic when designing the May Day Lamp.
“I wanted a lamp that had no fixed destination,” he says. “It’s neither a pendant lamp above a table or a bedside lamp or a garage lamp. It’s none of that but all of it at the same time. It’s a very versatile lamp.”
May Day also happens to be wonderfully simple. Comprising a cone-shaped reflector, a delicate handle and a wind-up cord and hook, it has been carefully crafted to illuminate all of life’s little moments, from DIY endeavours to the reading of bedtime stories.
Even after all these years, the wire remains a defining aspect of the design, a feature that stayed in when it came to designing the limited edition anniversary edition 20 years later.
“Today we have LEDs and even simple lamps have become so much more sophisticated. But a lamp like Mayday still has its place. You can fix it if it breaks. The lamp is from an old system, an old world and speaks of simplicity, transparency and consistency.”
Erwan & Ronan Bouroullec
Belt is perhaps the most unusual of the lights on our shortlist. Inspired by the reins found in equestrianism, it snakes organically overhead, a cool and very confident alternative to the traditional pendant or chandelier.
“What’s interesting about Belt is that the rigid part can be installed very precisely and then movement is created depending on how the connections are positioned,” says Ronan Bouroullec. “The leather handles twist very well, creating a line that is highly organic and extremely light.”
The lighting solution certainly confers a high level of control to the modern aesthete. Each element of the product is controlled by leather straps, some of which support the weight of the device while others carry electricity and light.
With a satisfying clunk, they can be fitted together, tracing out new corridors of light. We’ve found it tends to look best over modern dining tables, as part of a contemporary, pared back home.
“Electricity points are always where you least want them to be,” chuckles Michael Anastassades, designer of the String Collection and mastermind behind many of Flos’ most ethereal creations. “Which got me to thinking, how do you take them where you want them in an effortless and poetic way?”
After a couple of months of investigation, he arrived at String, a geometric system of lights that can criss-cross interior space with ease. Thanks to a series of imperceptible wall hooks, design lovers can draw out beautiful overhead webs, from which dangle a selection of geometric LED bulbs.
“When I sit on a train travelling, I always see these strings of electricity out of the window. It’s so beautiful and poetic the way they connect the pylons but at the same time they divide the landscape. I wanted to translate this into interior architecture…”
Vincent Van Duysen
No beams? No problem. In 2021, the overhead structures we’ll be trusting to gift character and charm will be crafted from light. At least, so goes the bold vision being thrust forward by Vincent Van Duysen.
The Infrastructure collection he designed for Flos was originally conceived for commercial spaces. Galleries, museums and the like. However, with time it’s become increasingly popular for residential interiors, a rigorous and graphic option for lovers of industrial style.
Dali dimming and Flos Smart Control means that each lamp can be dimmed individually, perfect for turning up the atmosphere in dining rooms or home offices as required.
In the capable hands of these five creatives, it’s easy to see the plurality of uses for cables in contemporary lighting. And whether as elegant vines, meandering belts or intricate webs, we hope to see plenty more in our interiors for years to come.