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9 August 2022
Absolute icon of Scandinavian design, it is a synthesis of technological and formal experimentation
Paul Henningsen was undoubtedly one of the founding fathers of Scandinavian design, not only as the author of some of the most iconic lamps of the 1900s but also as a critic, very active in the Danish cultural debate of the time. As a designer he had a fixed idea: lighting as the most important element of all. “The furniture, the carpets, the style of a house are nothing compared to the importance of the positioning of the light. Lighting does not cost much, but it requires culture” he said. Culture but also a scientific approach to the search for the most technically effective solution for designing lamps that offer useful and comfortable light.
He was a technological innovator, because technology was what interested him. Yet the very tools and functional innovations he introduced generated a formal revolution. The aesthetics of the Danish-style lamp stems from the work of Henningsen whose intention was not so much to design a beautiful lamp but rather a lamp that worked well. It is Danish functionalism, of which Henningsen is undoubtedly one of the greatest exponents. A movement of thought and an approach to design that was born to make the latter strictly adherent to the purpose for which the furnishings are made but ends up giving life, almost as an involuntary effect, to a formal style that is appreciated today even more than yesterday. all over the world: the Scandinavian style.
Henningsen’s field research takes on a strong acceleration when in 1925 he begins his collaboration with Louis Poulsen‘s company, which still edits its extensive production today. With Poulsen he designs the lamps for the Exposition des Art Décoratifs in Paris from which the System PH was born, and on that occasion was awarded the gold medal.
Let’s not forget that at the time the LED did not exist and they relied on incandescent bulbs with all the implications of temperature and quality of light that these entailed. Henningsen wanted to find the way to offer diffused and non-dazzling light and chose a very specific path: studying the behavior of reflected light. It is from this intuition that the whole PH5 series is born but not only. It is said, for example, that in his studio he had a room with black walls and this helped him to follow the paths of the reflected light.
To achieve the right effect, the designer begins to exploit elements such as petals or flaps, in the case of the Hartichoke, or combinations of thin lampshades to combine together as in the case of the PH5. They are both part of the same design strand, and it is no coincidence that they were both put into production in 1958.
Glare-free, warm and comfortable, the light emitted by the PH5 is therefore the result of the research path that Henningsen has carried out throughout his life. Thanks to the three deflecting screens / lampshades, the light is directed mainly downwards but also sideways while an internal red cone and another blue adjust the color, at least in the original version. The 5 in the name refers to the 50cm diameter of the initial project, although today this lamp is offered in different sizes, such as the smaller PH 3½-3. Suspension or table, it is available in many colors and not only in solid colors. The many colors offer the opportunity to place the PH5 and its smaller “sisters” in environments of different profiles: from a family interior to a professional context, from the kitchen to the living room and up to the bedroom. Because the luminous comfort remains the absolute prerogative of this lamp.
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