John C. Kerr Chancellor Emeritus Awards for Excellence in Design
A SERIES OF LIGHTING OBJECTS
BY ANNAKA HOELK
The intent of this project was to create a series of lighting objects that offered the user an opportunity to alter the experience of a space, and within that, a moment of wonder. In North America, where practices of consumerism and disposability are ubiquitous, we have become conditioned to want new, want better, want things all the time, and too often perfectly functional objects are disposed of because we grow bored. This series of three lights (from left: Tedio, Bor and Nui) are designed to help combat this ennui without having to consume more stuff, harnessing lighting’s immense transformative power within a space.
My goal was and is to design things that people want to keep forever, and that have the quality to endure this lifespan. As these lights took form, I began to reckon with the problem of ensuring that they themselves wouldn’t fall victim to these issues of boredom and disposal, and it became clear that I would have to think deeply about what made people form a durable relationship with an object. For something to just be physically durable, you do not guarantee that it will avoid the landfill, for that objects have to be imbued with a sort of emotional durability, and for me this meant thinking about beauty, wonder, simplicity, visual language, proportion and detailing as well as functionality.
Thinking about what makes people keep things is also thinking about what makes truly good design. It has to speak to the soul in more than one way to keep us engaged, I think. We should admire its beauty, while needing its function, and like the weight and feel of something, while appreciating the history it references. We should be able to say that it is durable and solid and all the practical things, while relishing the poetry of the light it emits, and the wonder it sparks every time you turn it on. Good design is deeply understandable, it reveals to you the decisions that went into its creation through its form, and simply makes sense as a total and complete object. This is where the title Simple Contraptions originates, from the pursuit of magic through simplicity.
“Light is therefore colour.” – J.M. William Turner
BOR consists of two circles of coloured glass on either side of a lightbulb, held aloft by a metal frame. By re-positioning or dimming the lamp you can achieve a variety of lighting conditions. Bor also comes in two colour variations, with the possibility for more, as the glass is interchangeable due to an un-screwable mounting system.
TEDIO is made of recycled Dacron sailcloth, stretched over a metal frame in two layers, an outer layer of white and an inner layer of red.
This layering creates a simple sort of magic trick, making the lamp appear white when off, yet creating a red glow when turned on. This effect changes with the amount of light in the surrounding room and by dimming or amplifying the lightbulb inside.
NUI is based on the archetypal cone lampshade, but elevated using steel for the cone and transecting it with an architectural plexiglass rectangle.
This plexiglass channel comes alive with colour when the light is turned on, adding a shinning line to an otherwise simple form, while orienting the light towards a wall produces a wash of cobalt blue light.
LIGHTS WHEN TURNED OFF
There is a German term, Gesamtkunstwerk, which translates as ‘a total work of art’. I do not profess that my work in complete in every sense, but I do believe that this idea is important when trying to design objects that have staying power. Thus, while the focus of my project was in creating lighting that transformed space, it was also deeply important that these lights could hold up as intriguing and sculptural objects when turned off.
Making the metal cone required that I get comfortable working the metal shop, learning how to cut, de-burr, roll and finish 24 Gauge mild steel sheet.
To make the metal frames for all the lights, I learned how to MIG weld, practicing on sheet metal and 1/4″ steel rob before welding the final pieces. To weld the frames accurately, I made wooden jigs for all the welding configurations, assuring that the rod wouldn’t move around as I welded.