05 November 2019
by Marco Romanelli
If on a clear night, lifting your eyes to the skies, you should see the stars aligned in a completely different way, fear not: it’s Ingo continuing his luminous revolution from up there.
Ingo Maurer left us on 21st October. He was born in 1932 on a little island on Lake Constance, and started out as a typographer and graphic designer. He did not open his studio in Munich until 1966, the year his first lamp, Bulb, was produced. A gigantic “bulb,” its design was from the outset a declaration of intent that was never refuted – the bulb in itself has an iconic value, Thomas Edison was an absolute genius.
53 years have gone by since then, years during which Ingo never failed to amaze. Our amazement mirrors that of children: mouths open and noses in the air as we take in thrilling flights of fancy involving bulbs and metaphors, hearts and feathers and messages of love. Cutting edge technology and poetic narration, all at once. That is what light was for Ingo Maurer, the sort of light that was unique in the world, totally at odds with the perfect lamps that Castiglioni and Magistretti were designing contemporaneously, and Rizzatto and Meda later on.
In actual fact, it was Ingo who was different, unconcerned with the rules that governed the world of designers in Italy, let alone in Germany. First and foremost, he was an extremely good-looking man, given to breaking into huge smiles. He was a kind man, who would ask you how you were and what you were up to (him asking you!!!). He was a generous man, generous with his collaborators, who were always cited and thanked (in any case, there were times when his studio looked more like a commune than a technical office). He was kind to strangers, too. For many years his presentations during the Salone del Mobile in Milan, at the famous Spazio Krizia in Via Manin, were not just sensory adventures involving science fiction films and funfairs, they were also opportunities for launching young designers.
Ingo was a pure spirit who nevertheless shied away from that algid purity that often characterises lighting design. His prodigious lamps always seemed to be infected with real life (which, as we know, is also made up of flies, broken dishes and coffee cups), but he was able to make us dream of a more poetic one (a softly-lit dishcloth hanging on a wall, or bulbs sprouting wings made of real feathers in order to fly away). Do any of the things we’ve listed between the lines – feathers, dishcloths, leaflets and even condoms – seem like design materials to you? They were for Ingo, because for him lighting design served one main purpose which, believe it or not, was not to “give light,” but to “tell stories.” This is why his lamps were given neo-realist names, from Le Lacrime del Pescatore [The Fisherman’s Tears] – (a huge net dotted with luminous crystals) to Porca Miseria [Oh Hell!] - (a pile of broken crockery) and Bellissima Brutta [Beautiful Ugly] - a bunch of technological flowers wrapped in florist’s cellophane. Each lamp tells a story, very human stories narrated by a designer who couldn’t care less about kitsch or minimalism, functionalism or post-modernism. A man who lived through these periods in the history of design, remaining resolutely himself: a creator of light!
“A creator of light? − Ingo wrote in 1985 – there have only ever been two: God and Thomas Edison. All we lighting designers do is nothing more than concealing what the two of them have created.”
Opening: Photo by Robert Fischer
Photo by Tom Vack