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Poul Henningson, Louis Poulsen

Poul Henningson, 9th September 1894 – 31st January 1967

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Poul Henningson is most famous for his work as an industrial and lighting designer with his iconic designs of the PH lamp (1926) and the PH artichoke (1958). Some 80 years after their first inception they are still in production by the lighting manufacturer Louis Poulsen today. At auction recently an original luminaire of his sold for a staggering £193,250. With this in mind his luminaires have long become collector items and objects of investment. Poul Henningsen dedicated his life to understanding, investigating and exploiting the power and magic of light.
His work was largely influenced as a result of growing up in the early 20th century when the gas and petroleum lanterns were prevalent, these gave off a very warm, soft light. Then, with the introduction of electric lighting in the early 1900’s meant the replacement of this old technology to the new electric light which he found quite harsh and bright. So Poul, with the aid of his own careful experimentation invented a way of designing a luminaire which would reduce glare and provide a harmonious light source which was comparable to the warm glow of the gas lantern.
It is said that it took Poul Henningsen 10 years to finalize and refine the PH lamp, though the luminaire was continually refined through out his life. The PH luminaires popularity is due to the clever consideration of the placement of the lamp shades which effectively shield the light source whilst still producing adequate light to the surrounding surfaces. By designing the luminaire around the light source he created a fixture which is a timeless and harmonious design, where each part is considered as part of the whole.
But we wonder, what would the man make of current luminaire designs and the current LED technology today and how could we take inspiration from PH in new luminaire design today?

One of the advantages of LED is that we don’t have to be fixed to a single light source, so the light could be incorporated into multiple surfaces and could potentially be any size or shape you please, with there being no reason for the light source itself to be the centre of the fitting. This could be used to create some exciting shapes and sizes. And with the aid of modern software we could model the effect of various designs quickly and easily. (Unlike in Pouls day when he carefully drew around the shapes the light caused on to paper.) In our view we have yet to see the full potential of the LED light source being incorporated in to a luminaire design and we look forward to seeing new visionaries of the future.

In the words of Poul Henningson: “”It doesn’t cost money to light a room correctly, but it does require culture.”