Archive for May, 2011


May 30, 2011

For most people, a tea strainer has only one purpose: to strain the tea leaves when making tea. It would be impossible to think of another use. But for Ingo Maurer, a plain tea strainer can form the basis of inspiration for yet another work of art: the Mozzkito desk lamp.

When I first saw this lamp many years ago, I was surprised by the unorthodox choice of materials. A tea strainer houses a halogen light bulb and is suspended in mid-air by the use of a thin metal stem that sits on a metal base. The metal stem doubles as a pipe for concealing the intricate wiring used to supply the halogen lamp with electricity. But the novelty does not stop there. The tea strainer features an assembly of protruding filaments.

Judging from the name of the lamp, it is clear that Ingo Maurer drew inspiration for this piece from the intricate, almost fragile, silhouette of mosquitos. And the desk lamp he created seems to be carrying all those features. Besides the metal base, the only big and heavy object, everything else is completely thin, almost weightless. A slight touch of the metal stem or the strainer can cause the light to oscillate, reminding us of its fragile nature; when undisturbed it stands majestically.

Here is the story of how I became an owner of a Mozzkito lamp: After moving to Germany, I started exploring the city of Heidelberg to find shops that sell furniture and get ideas for my apartment. One of the shops I discovered, and was destined to become one of my favourites, was Seyfarth Einrichtungen, located at Plock, a parallel road to the main one in the old part of the city. Seyfarth was selling furniture and objects from the most famous design houses in Europe – Vitra, Moroso, Cassina to name but a few. Apart from the showroom at the front of the store, they also had 3-4 rooms at the back. It was more like a storage room to furniture and objects that were once the centre of attention at the front, but gradually lost their appeal. In the back rooms, instead of the aesthetically pleasing placement of furniture and objects like the front showroom, there was just a plain juxtaposition of items, without any effort to look nice. Some of them were even damaged.

I only discovered the back rooms of Seyfarth several months after visiting the store to get ideas for my apartment. And among the chairs, the wardrobes and the desks at the far end of the room, I saw it gathering dust at a shadowy corner. An Ingo Maurer Mozzkito desk lamp, which despite a bend on its metal rod, it retained its grace.

I quickly asked one of the store managers how much it cost, and bargained the price because of the bend in the metal rod. I paid the money and a few minutes later was out in the streets, clutching a paper box containing the lamp with the tea strainer protruding out of the box (Seyfarth did not have the original box). On my way home, I still remember the glances of passers-by on what it was that I was carrying.

When I moved from Germany to England, I insisted on taking this lamp with me, even though it meant I needed to create a special box to transport it and several “Zerbrechlich” (Fragile) tags. It was only 3 years ago that the lamp began having a problem: it started burning the halogen lamp only hours after I have changed it. For this reason, the lamp was disassembled.

It took me two years, and a threat from my flatmate to throw the lamp away that made me to contact Ingo Maurer to find out if the lamp could be repaired. It turned out that the problem was caused by the wiring of the metal rod; even though it had survived the initial bend, it has deteriorated dramatically during the past few years. A few weeks later, a new metal rod was delivered to me from Germany and used it restore my Mozzkito to its former glory.

As I finish this post, the light illuminating my Mac keyboard comes from Mozzkito; which for a very long time – and for more time to come – is one of my [obsessions]*.


[first image © LambdaPhage, second image © Ingo Maurer]


Brit Insurance Design Awards 2011

May 22, 2011

The Plumen lightbulbs

Whenever I visit a museum, I find myself staring at artefacts from civilisations thousands of years before my time or paintings from artists that I could not possibly afford to buy. But whenever I visit the Design Museum in London, I find myself staring at objects that may as well sit in my living room. In fact, most of the times I am pleasantly surprised that I own some of them. This is what happened when I visited the Brit Insurance Design Awards exhibition.

The Brit Insurance Design Awards exhibition, organised annually at the Design Museum, is the culmination of the awards, established in 2003 to celebrate examples of innovative design. A judging panel made up of renowned design experts decides the best entries from nominations in seven categories: Architecture, Transport, Graphics, Interactive, Product, Furniture and Fashion. The nominations also come from renowned design experts, who are asked to provide up to 5 nominations representing the most innovative designs launched in the last year.

Compared to the previous year, the exhibition was sparse, with many nominations being represented by photographs and videos rather than copies of the actual object: a sensible solution for entries in the architectural or services but not for the others categories. The display tables were also wobbly, strengthening my perception that the exhibition was carelessly thought and set up. Rather than scattering objects, a more sensible approach would have been to group them according to their nomination categories and to use innovative display forms and multimedia to encourage the visitor to interact with the exhibits.

LED-light installation by Phillips

Besides products showcased in electronic tablets (iPads and others), which the visitor was encouraged to explore, all others could not be touched, even though they were within reach, apart on the front of the exhibition, where some select real-life items were available for interaction. These included Herman Miller’s Sayl Task chair, a bench made from recycled cardboard, several books and the playful Spun chair by Thomas Heatherwick.

The diversity of the products and the variety of design methods employed made it difficult for me to pick my favourites (and I am sure it is equally difficult for the judges to pick the winners among many nominations). However, there have been several objects that caught my attention, sometimes for the novelty of the design and sometimes for the innovative choice of materials.

Wall Piercings by Flos

Flos took part in the exhibition with Wall Piercings, an interesting display of LED rings of changing colours (which for an unknown reason was very difficult to photograph), whereas Phillips included a LED-light bench that responded to human movement and made the LED panels move. The Fashion Design Award was given to Jil Sander for her 2011 +J collection for Uniqlo (for which you can read more here, here and here) whereas the Transport award was awarded to the Barclays Cycle hire project in London, the infamous Boris bikes. Finally, the overall Brit Insurance Design of the Year award went to Plumen lightbulb, an innovative, aesthetically pleasing redesign of a low-energy light bulb that looks differently depending on the angle you watch it.

Plumen lightbulb close-up

Overall, even though the previous exhibition included more design objects than the current one, it is definitely worth visiting to celebrate last year’s good designs and to witness that some of these do not only end up in museum stands but may find refuge in the comfort of your home.


P.S.: The exhibition is still open and will last until 7th August 2011.