Origami: 8 lamps that draw inspiration from this ancient Japanese art

17 January 2023

Mendori by Artemide

The oriental art of paper folding as an elegant expression of lighting design

Origami is the very ancient oriental technique which consists in folding the paper to obtain abstract or inspired by nature shapes. It is like a delicate sculpture that does not require a chisel but entrusts the creation of enchanting art objects with simple elegance to manual skill. Paper is the material of choice, and it is precisely with its diffusion in the Eastern world that this form of art was born. Hence the visual and concrete delicacy of these artifacts, the starting point for a series of lamps that add an extra element: the interaction between the paper – or other materials that reproduce their appearance – and the light source that makes the latter diffused and delicate. Evoking the light of oriental lanterns: soft, whispered and diffused. These are lamps that create atmosphere and even when switched off they help to dictate the style of the environment thanks to their sculptural but always discreet appearance.

Mendori by Issey Miyake for Artemide

The Mendori lamp (on the cover) is perhaps the one that evokes the art of Origami most of all: not only in its appearance which recalls that of folded paper, but also in its function, since the lamp can be kept folded without undergoing damage. From a formal point of view, it is presented with disarming simplicity; yet, from a technical point of view, it is the result of an elaborate research process that led the fashion designer and the company to identify a recycled material that has a greater transparency than paper, while reproducing its features.

Perch by Umut Yamac for Moooi

Umut Yamac is an English designer who often draws inspiration from nature: in this lamp he has played with the typical shapes of origami to create the shape of a bird of light which he has also given the possibility to move, swinging on its “branch”. The composition has only an apparent delicacy: the structure is in fact in steel and polycarbonate. “Joy is in the details” says the designer and this approach can also be read in Perch: in the defined and elegant lines and in the combination of materials that express strength and lightness.

Bubble by George Nelson for Hay

In 1952 George Nelson imagined this lamp inspired by the impalpable texture of the silk that covered Swedish lamps. Nelson’s goal was to reproduce that elegant beauty with less expensive materials and processes, meeting the middle class that in the mid-1900s was becoming more aware and more interested in interior design. And this is how Nelson arrives at the technical solution of covering the frame not with a precious silk but with a sprayed synthetic material: a self-crosslinking resin originally used by the American army. The result is functional and elegant, and the material obtained evokes the transparency of silk and the delicacy of origami in its appearance.

Gatto by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni for Flos

In 1960 Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni also experimented with the performance of spray polymer with the Gatto lamp. The material used in this project is called cocoon and just like in Nelson’s Bubble lamp it is sprayed onto a frame assuming the features of paper. A simple and reassuring presence that discreetly warms up the domestic interior.

Matin by Inga Sempè for Hay

The lampshade of the Matin lamp recalls an origami that we’ve all tried to do at least once in a lifetime: folding a sheet of paper to form a sort of fan. In the case of this lamp, it is not paper but cotton, used for the lampshade proposed in a series of colors in soft or more decisive shades. Combined with the steel supporting structure, it is a table, desk, and bedside lamp.

Model 172 by Poul Christiansen and The Bouquet by Sinja Svarrer Damkjær for Le Klint

The curves of the plastic sheet evoke the 1970s style in which the Model 172 ceiling lamp was imagined by Poul Christiansen. But the elegance and visual lightness make it a current and elegant light, perfect in a living room as well as in a more informal setting.

Instead, The Bouquet lamp is inspired by the flower bouquets that Sinja Svarrer Damkjær observed on her trip to Italy, whose lampshade is made of paper and characterized by a dense geometry of folds.

Akari by Isamu Noguchi for Vitra

Isamu Noguchi’s Akari collection is an authentic tribute to the Japanese tradition of washi paper crafting. It is a return to the essence of light and in the designer’s imagination paper takes on the role of diluting its intensity and making it diffuse and comfortable.

Hay Matin
Flos Gatto
Artemide Mendori
Le Klint Model 172
Hay Nelson Saucer Bubble
Hay Nelson Ball Bubble
Hay Nelson Pear Crisscross Bubble
Moooi Perch Light Branch
Le Klint The Bouquet
Vitra Akari Suspension

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