December 13, 2017

48 Iconic Italian Lamps

Italy is revered for many things: Food, wine, coffee, fashion -- and in the world of design -- lighting. For decades, Italy has set the bar in contemporary lighting, thanks to forward-thinking pioneers like Gio Ponti and Ettore Sottsass, risk-taking brands like FontanaArte and Flos, and time-honored techniques, like Murano glassblowing. Charting the history of Italian lighting design is no easy task, but these 48 lamps certainly serve as landmarks that helped pave the way for Italy’s lighting renaissance.

Luminator by Luciano Baldessari
for Luceplan

First realized as a mannequin for textiles at the Barcelona exhibition in 1929 (Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion), Luminator was installed as a lighting fixture in a private apartment and published in Casabella in 1933, where Edoardo Persico wrote “ …it is a real mise en scène.”

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Bilia by Gio Ponti
for FontanaArte

One of the most eclectic characters in design history, Italy’s Gio Ponti did it all, from architecture to graphics, industrial design to art direction. He was an editor-in-chief that founded Domus Magazine, and in 1932, he founded FontanaArte together with Pietro Chiesa. His Bilia design for FontanaArte was so iconic, it’s still in production today.

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Luminator by Pietro Chiesa
for FontanaArte

Perhaps the first real, industrial production of a fixture with a continuous, elegant line from the base to the stem to the reflector, Pietro Chiesa’s Luminator was adored by Gio Ponti. In fact, a 1949 edition of Domus has Ponti praising the design as one of the most exceptional prototypes turned lighting achievement; “the purest floor lamp ever.”

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2003 by Gino Sarfatti
for Arteluce

One of the first chandeliers designed for Arteluce, 2003 paved the way for the atomic, “Sputnik” designs of the ‘50s and ‘60s, featuring brass pipes shooting outward from a central point. It remains one of the most inspiring fixtures to this day.

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1047 by Vittoriano Vigano
for Arteluce

Designed by acclaimed architect Vittoriano Vigano, 1047 is the perfect marriage of engineering and industrial design. Vigano believed in employing the same principles in urban planning as he did in product design, resulting in a fixture that feels both artistic and architectural.

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548 by Gino Sarfatti
for Arteluce

One of the most prolific masters of Italian lighting, Gino Sarfatti designed more than 400 lamps over 30 years. As both entrepreneur and designer at Arteluce (which he founded in 1939), his fixtures set the bar in both form and technology. His original design for kinematic junctions is particularly notable, able to move the light source within a space. His 548 design innovatively used the shade as the reflector, widening the angle of the light in ways never seen before.

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Monachella by Luigi Caccia Dominioni
for Azucena

Born in an aristocratic family from Novara, Dominioni graduated in Architecture in Milano before opening his practice in 1938 with the Castiglioni brothers. The end of the ‘40’s sparked a collaboration with Azucena, where Ignazio Gardella helped bring Monachella to life, an icon for its simple elegant lines and plain materials.

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1853 Glass Lamp by Max Ingrand
for FontanaArte

Once the Artistic Director for FontanaArte, French master glass worker and decorator Max Ingrand used his expertise to create the timeless and revered Glass Lamp, which surprisingly casts light from the body. The design is still in production today.

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Stilnovo chandelier by Gaetano Scolari
for Stilnovo

Legends in the first wave of Italian design post-World War II, Stilnovo started in 1946 by Bruno Gatta, partnering with several now-iconic designers in their early days, including Danilo and Corrado Aroldi, Gaetano Sciolari, Alberto Fraser, Joe Colombo and Ettore Sottsass. Gaetano’s Stilnovo chandelier is a landmark in Stilnovo’s history, with its penchant for molecular, geometrically balanced form and--at the time--new materials, including opaline glass, perspex and brass.

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Fato by Gio Ponti
for Arredoluce

With a slight nod to Cubism and Piet Mondrian, Gio Ponti’s famous Fato lamp for Arredoluce features geometrical metal screens to create a connection between void and solid. Enclosed in a square frame, the piece truly serves as a functional work of art.

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237 by Gino Sarfatti
for Arteluce

One of Arteluce’s most iconic bestsellers, the simple, refined 237 by Gino Sarfatti bridged the gap from mid-century modern to sixties futurism. The polished frame and glass globe became a symmetrical statement piece in Arteluce’s 1960 flagship store in Via Della Spiga in Milano, designed by Vittoriano Viganò.

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Gatto by Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni
for Flos

Designed in the famous “cocoon” style the Castiglioni brothers were known for, Gatto (or “little cat”), wraps a steel structure with a white powder coat and soft, webby resin. The result is a soft, warm glow, like a charming and curvaceous circus tent.

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Arco by Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni
for Flos

In 1962, several now iconic lamps designed by the famous Castiglioni brothers went to production with Flos. After experimenting with their acclaimed “cocoon”style, the brothers began paring objects down to their minimal, functional form. With its white, marble base, thin aluminum arc and perforated lampshade, Arco became a design that would resonate for decades. Even the hole in the marble base was designed for lifting -- simplicity proved a lasting aesthetic.

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Taccia by Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni
for Flos

Designed to reduce complex, mechanical devices, Taccia is a study in sculpture and simplicity. The base and reflector are independent, with the bulb inside the base, supporting the Murano glass diffusor. The result is a stunning landmark in Italian lighting.

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Acrilica by Joe Colombo
for O-luce

One of Italy’s most acclaimed designers, Joe Colombo (born Cesare Colombo)started out as a painter and sculptor, bringing his artistic flair to the design world in an entirely unique way. His love for experimentation lead him to pioneer plastic and acrylic manufacturing. Acrilica was Colombo’s first project for O-luce, a lamp known for its incredibly sculptural curve and inventive illumination. Acrilica won the gold medal at the 13th Triennial in Milan.

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E63 by Umberto Riva
for Bieffeplast, FontanaArte

After studying in Venice under Carla Scarpa, Umberto Riva went on to open his own architecture practice in Milano and became one of the masters in Italy, known for his meticulous eye for detail. E63 / Robot was initially designed as part of a competition, taken into production in 1969 by two different manufacturers (Bieffeplast and FontanaArte). The open-back construction made it a unique table lamp that actually doubled as a wall lamp.

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Nesso by Città Nuova Group
for Artemide

Crafted from polyester with reinforced fiberglass, the Nesso table lamp is a polished, space age form, perfectly suited for ‘60s futurism. When turned on, the whole form becomes luminous and each part contributes to the light diffusion.

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Eclisse by Vico Magistretti
for Artemide

Vico Magistretti began his architecture career rebuilding the cities of Italy after the 2nd World War, relying heavily on expansive, open spaces and natural lighting. His Eclisse table lamp plays off that same idea of open/closed space and nature, allowing you to move the reflector like that of the moon in front of the sun. Fully open allows for bright, direct light; fully closed mimics a full eclipse, with a striking ethereal glow.

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Spider by Joe Colombo
for O-Luce

Designed with functionality at the forefront, Joe Colombo’s Spider won the Compasso d’Oro award in 1967, thanks to its clean form, tilting head and unique, horizontal slot for the light bulb.

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Coupè by Joe Colombo
for O-Luce

Part of the permanent collections at the MoMA in New York and the “Neue Sammlung” Museum in Munich, Joe Colombo’s Coupè is a sublime example of form meets function, with a stove-enamelled metallic reflector that tilts and turns, and a sleek and stylish horizontal cutout. In 1968 Coupé won the "International Design Award" from the American Institute of Interior Designers, in Chicago.

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Periscopio by Danilo and Corrado Aroldi
for Stilnovo

Exhibited at New York’s New Domestic Landscape in 1968, the Periscopio desk lamp checks several boxes: Functional, playful, whimsical. The minimalist form uses a flexible, rubber joint, allowing it to be placed in virtually any position.

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Gherpe by Superstudio
for Poltronova

A modern interpretation of the Nautilus shell, Cristiano Toraldo di Francia’s drew inspiration from marine biology after dreaming of a shape that’s half animal, half artificial. He began to build a model with progressively longer strips of colored sheet, fastened with a single screw and with that, Gherpe was born.

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Flash by Joe Colombo
for O-Luce

Reflecting the innovative spirit of its creator Joe Colombo, Flash draws clear inspiration from flashbulb cameras. The fixture was concepted as a full lighting system, with a set of frames and bases allowing you to transition the light into a floor, wall or desk lamp.

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602 by Cini Boeri
for Arteluce

In a discipline and era dominated by men, Cini Boeri broke the mold and offered a refreshing new perspective. A frequent collaborator with both Gio Ponti and Marco Zanuso, Boeri designed a series of unforgettable buildings and interiors, always focusing on usability and freedom. Her 602 lamp is a clean, pipe-like form with a turnable arm that offers both useful and playful flexibility.

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KD 27 by Joe Colombo
for Kartell

In the late ‘60s, as Space Age design was in its prime, many designers turned to polished, globular forms instead of the sharp angles of the past. KD 27 was no exception. The clean and curvaceous design allows it to serve as a soft, warm table lamp, or it can be stacked like a customizable floor lamp.

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Biagio by Tobia Scarpa
for Flos

Carved from a single piece of Carrara marble, Tobia Scarpa’s Biagio lamp sits right at the intersection of luxury and contemporary lighting. With soft curves and sharp angles, the ultramodern shape proves that lighting and sculpture go hand-in-hand.

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Boalum by Livio Castiglioni and Pio Manzù
for Artemide

The embodiment of lighting flexibility, Boalum is like a futuristic space worm from a Stanley Kubrick film. Inspired by the movement and shape of a snake (a boa that illuminates … Boalum), the semi-transparent tubular body can be coiled, extended or compressed to fit any size space.

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Colombo by Joe Colombo
for O-Luce

The first fixture to use a halogen bulb, the Colombo floor lamp came to life one year after Colombo’s untimely death, named in his honor. Even after three decades, the lamp is an unsurpassed icon of design that is both functional and contemporary.

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Topo by Joe Colombo
for Stilnovo

A prime example of Joe Colombo’s vision, Topo carries a bold, sculptural form into any space, contemporary or traditional. Colombo saw the role of a designer as the creator of future environments, where objects should stand independently of their surroundings, and Topo does just that.

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Samurai by Shigeaki Asahara
for Stilnovo

Designed by Shigeaki Asahara for the Italian manufacturer, Stilnovo, the Samurai Desk Lamp is the perfect addition to any work space. With an adjustable arm and a dimmer incorporated into the base of the lamp, Samurai fixtures never fail to appeal to minimalist lovers and design enthusiasts.

Part of the Light Art Collection, on display at the Lightology showroom.

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Parentesi Achille Castiglioni and Pio Manzù
for Flos

Originally concepted as a light sliding up and down a boom, held in place by a screw, designer Pio Manzù decided to take the physics one step further. The result: Parentesi, a metal chord bent inside a rod creating constant friction, holding the light in place without the use a screw. It’s a study in minimalist ingenuity.

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Cubo Luce by Franco Bettonica & Mario Melocchi
for Cini & Nils

A playful take on a bedside lamp, Cubo Luce turns on when you open the cube, revealing the hidden light source and reflecting off the bottom of the lid. The stylishly whimsical design is a permanent exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

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Tizio by Richard Sapper
for Artemide

Prolific designer Richard Sapper, together with Marco Zanuso, designed some of the most memorable products of the ‘60s and ‘70s, from the Grillo folding telephone to the Algol TV. The Tizio for Artemide went on to become a pillar in desk lamp design, featuring a transformer in the base that powers the lamp through rods and press button joints. The counterbalanced engineering allows for precise positioning, making it one of the most adjustable and recognizable desk lamps to this day, earning it several awards including the Compasso d’Oro in 1979.

Part of the Light Art Collection, on display at the Lightology showroom.

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265 by Paolo Rizzatto

Minimal aesthetic, maximum flexibility, Paolo Rizzato’s 265 wall light swings, pivots and twists to direct light exactly where you need it. The clean, simple form steered away from the rounded, plastic Spage Age vernacular so many designers were still using at the time, paring the fixture down to its purest functional form.

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Aggregato by Enzo Mari
for Artemide

An elegant way to both hide the cord and adjust the height, Enzo Mari’s Aggregato lamp took the minimal, functional aesthetic of the time and dressed it up. The result is both stunning and simple.

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Atollo by Vico Magistretti
for O-luce

A true icon in Italian design, Atollo appears to defy physics: A dome balancing delicately on the very tip of a conical cylinder. The soft glow creates a hemispheric effect, like gazing out onto a horizon. Refined, geometric, it’s no surprise that Magistretti’s design won the most prestigious prize in Italian design, the Compasso d’Oro.

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Tokio by Asahara Shigea
for Stilnovo

The Tokio Table Lamp is a timeless fixture designed by Asahara Shigeaki for Italian lighting manufacturer, Stilnovo. The lamp is highly adjustable with a maximum height of 64 centimeters. Featuring a mailbox-like shade supported by four adjustable arms, allowing the lamp is capable of moving in all directions. With a dimmer and sliding switch cleverly concealed within the base, Tokio lamps are perfect atop home offices and work desks alike.

Part of the Light Art Collection, on display at the Lightology showroom.

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Ziggurat by Asahara Shigea
for Stilnovo

Designed by Shigeaki Asahara for Stilnovo, the Ziggurat Table Lamp has a base made from thick lacquered metal and is enhanced by a brass ring on both the base and the top of the trunk. With a shade made from Murano glass, Ziggurat lamps add warm illumination while offering your space a vintage feel.

Part of the Light Art Collection, on display at the Lightology showroom.

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Gibigiana by Achille Castiglioni
for Stilnovo

Designed by Achille Castiglioni, the Gibigiana Table Lamp is the epitome of iconic Italian lighting. The Gibigiana features an aluminum reflector, which in turn provides reflected light - perfect everywhere from bedside tables to home offices. With a base made from anthracite painted steel, Gibigiana lamps are not only built to last but offer design that never goes out of style.

Part of the Light Art Collection, on display at the Lightology showroom.

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Callimaco by Ettore Sottsass
for Artemide

Hailing from the early days of Memphis design, Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass set out to capture the essence of a vintage Luminator and column with Callimaco. Pops of color and a whimsical approach to scale highlight key Memphis Group ideas, refined and revised over the next decade.

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Ashoka by Ettore Sottsass

A truly prolific figure in the world of design, Ettore Sottsass designed some of the first computers and portable typewriters in the ‘60s, eventually pioneering the Memphis movement of the ‘80s. Ashoka serves as a mascot for the movement, epitomizing the main characteristics: Color, scale, whimsy and a touch of imperfection or handmade. The Ashoka lamp went on to travel the world, as part of the infamous Memphis exhibition.

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Super by Martine Bedin

Produced for the Memphis Group’s first exhibition, the Super lamp was described by the designer as "a small dog that I could carry with me" With exposed light bulbs lining a half-circle and four wheels, the whimsical fixture feels more like a pet dinosaur, able to be pulled around the room.

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Nastro by Alberto Fraser
for Stilnovo

Scottish designer Alberto Fraser celebrates lighting down to its raw form, letting the rainbow-colored cabling serve as the focus on the Nastro table light. The flexible PVC/cable stem retracts and moves with a sort of vibrant grace, inspiring the lamps very name: Nastro, or “ribbon” in Italian.

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Costanza by Paolo Rizzatto
for Luceplan

Paolo Rizzatto’s work is characterized by a great balance between tradition and innovation, timeless forms that are at once timeless and timely. The Costanza lamp is that quintessential form, refined and polished for a modern era. A variety of color options carried the fixture distinctly into the ‘80s without feeling too timestamped.

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Tolomeo by Michele de Lucchi & Giancarlo Fassina
for Artemide

Perhaps the most flexible desk lamp on the market, even today, Tolomeo quickly became a bestseller for Artemide. Relying on the technology of the time, Lucchi and Fassina were able to create something modern, sophisticated, lightweight and flexible, becoming the litmus test many of today’s desk lamps measure up to.

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Titania by Paolo Rizzatto and Alberto Meda
for Luceplan

The ecliptic Titania is a vision of ‘80s futurism: Sleek, computer-generated, abstract. 17 aluminum ellipses reflect light, floating effortlessly overhead in perfectly aligned slats. In the words of Alberto Meda “I am interested in technology because it seems to be the contemporary expression of man’s imagination.” Meda’s vision of the future couldn’t be more clear.

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Orbital by Ferrucio Laviani
for Foscarini

If the ‘80s were about perfection and computer-generation, the ‘90s deconstructed it. Orbital draws clear inspiration from ‘80s aesthetic--color, whimsy, scale--but pulls it apart with a unique twist. Primary colors replaced the neons and pastels of Memphis, and meticulous forms evolved back to organic shapes, still with the aid of modern technology.

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Hope by Paolo Rizzatto & Francisco Gomez Paz
for Luceplan

With small-batch production and new, lightweight technology, more and more designs emerge each year, making it hard to pinpoint which will leave a lasting mark. Hope pulls together many of the characteristics found in today’s fixtures. Iridescent, futuristic materials, organic shapes, laser-cut precision and energy-efficient technology embody a moment in design we’ll fondly look back on.

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