Gae Aulenti for Kartell ‘King Sun’ in Perspex and Red-Orange Aluminum
Gae Aulenti for Kartell, ‘King Sun’ lamp, Perspex, enameled aluminum, Italy, 1967
This ‘King Sun’ lighting object is created by Gae Aulenti for Kartell in 1967. The lamp was designed specifically for the Olivetti showroom in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Aulenti designed the store herself reminiscent of a ‘piazza’ dominated with stairs positioned in a curve, with the lamps displayed on different levels along with the typewriters. The strong visual aesthetics was enhanced kaleidoscopically by the mirrors on the walls and the ceiling. The construction features a red-orange colored base inserted with clear acrylic semi-circular sheets. The fins encircle the light bulb which is located at the center. The light shines through the fins and highlights their outer edges. The composition and illumination of the light evokes an abstract representation of the sun. The use of a bright color and acrylic sheets in this design places it in the Pop Art era, reminiscent of the contemporaneous experimentation of avant-garde sculptors. This lamp is a great example of the technical advances in lamp design in Italy, starting in the late 1950s. It represents an imaginative response to the availability of translucent plexiglass sheets. The use of plexiglass opened a whole new range of possibilities in the field of lamp design. The material has the transparent quality of glass, while at the same time being less fragile and therefore less dangerous in use. It also has a very specific way of transmitting the light, which appears to be passing through the sheet slower than through glass. Not to forget, the simple formability is a great benefit that allows the designer to create various constellations. The King Sun lamp is a highly innovative piece of lighting with a strong sense of three-dimensionality and spatiality.
Gae Aulenti (1927-2012) was an Italian designer and architect. In 1954, she graduated at the Milan School of Architecture of the Polytechnic University and was only one of two women from her class of 20. Aulenti is mostly known for her large-scale museum projects such as her work for the Musée d’Orsay and Centre Pompidou in Paris, and Palazzo Grassi in Venice. Aulenti was at the forefront of Italian post-war design. Her design was meant to make connections with both history and future of Italy. The postmodern movement that Aulenti belonged to refused to design in the objective language of the modernists. This Avant Garde Postmodern design movement was the beginning of a new type of Italian art, architecture and design.
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