How many design artists does it take to recreate the light bulb? Lighting is very simple. You turn a switch and the area is illuminated by a source.
It’s something you don’t think about - it just happens. Some people can see past what we see, and look beyond what is common. Ingo Maurer is one of those creative visionaries who can see possibilities where most see the obvious.
Ingo Maurer was born on the Island of Reichenau, Lake Constance, Germany in 1932. He began his training as a typographer in Germany and Switzerland. Then from 1954 -1958 he trained as a graphic designer in Munich. Beginning work as a freelance designer, he emigrated to New York and San Francisco, only to make a return to Munich in 1963. By 1966 he had founded the studio Design M, which became Ingo Maurer GmbH & Company. This is where he designed his first lamp for an installation at the Herman Miller Showroom, “Bulb”, which celebrates Thomas Edison and the simple light bulb. It’s a large outer bulb made from hand blown glass that houses a single light bulb held by a chrome plated base. It was so successful that he had to produce more to match the demand.
"The light bulb."
In Maurer’s own words, “I have always been fascinated by the light bulb because it is the perfect meeting of industry and poetry. The bulb is my inspiration.” The naked light bulb is prominent in his designs. He is a pioneer in using new lighting technologies. Since 1966 he has created 150 different kinds of lighting and lighting systems ranging from fashion runways and public buildings to monuments and private commissions.
As an outsider Maurer adds provocation and fun to the design world. Some of his major works are, in 1969 “No Fuss”, a single bulb hung from a lengthy cord in the ceiling. In
1979, the elegantly simply designed “Savoie Lamp”, a beautiful composition minimally consisting of one bulb, one socket, two electrical wires, and one silicon cable. In 1980, he returned to his first design success with “Bulb Bulb”, which is a pendant lamp or a floor lamp. With this design the lamp is made from plastic and appears to change with colored bulbs. It’s deliberately kitschy.
In 1984 at the Euroluce, a trade fair in Milan, Maurer launched the technology he developed for halogen lighting systems that caused an
immediate commotion. Little low – voltage halogen lamps strung in parallel rows in space. “Zettel’z”, designed in 1998, is a lamp with scraps of Japanese paper fastened with wires, and bears poems or drawings. This was a huge hit. Designed for the Munich WestFriedhof underground station in 1999, the XXL Dome was several large aluminum lampshades with a diameter of four meters and was later reduced in size and mass produced. In 2001 he opened his own store in New York.
Ingo Maurer has won several awards for his clever and innovative modern designs. He was awarded ‘Chevalier Des Arts Et Des Lettres’ by the French Minister of Culture in 1986, The ‘Lucky Strike Designer Award 2000’ by the Raymond Loewy Foundation, and ‘Designer of the Year 1997’ by the German magazine Architektur & Wohnen.
One of a kind in design and spirit, Maurer tries to think of the light before he thinks about the materials. He tries to design empty spaces with well planned light, natural and artificial. This way the room changes mood through the day using deliberate exposures and reflections. He makes it all look so easy.
There is more to lighting than turning on a lamp, and there is more to a lamp than a light bulb and a switch. Ingo Maurer has looked beyond the obvious to create some of the most thought provoking pieces for the world to enjoy. He may not have reinvented the light bulb, but he sure found many ways to surprise, delight, and intrigue us. The next time you walk into a room look beyond the light and try to imagine the possibilities. You may just understand Ingo Maurer.