Design Week in Milan, which is happening now, is overwhelming no matter how you look at it. Emerging from the exhibitions, installations, product debuts, pop-ups, and parties is a very distinct sense that maybe there’s just too much “stuff” being produced. While the eternal do-we-really-need-another-chair? debate rages on, one of the more interesting pieces on display this year is also one of the most ephemeral.
The trio of Swedish femmes who make up the design group Front have created the Surface Tension Lamp, an LED with a bubble shade–or, rather, 3 million bubble shades–and this is no George Nelson knock-off. The understated light source will last for 50,000 hours, in which time it will blow an almost unbelievable amount of unique globes, each reflecting its surroundings in a one-off performance before bursting to make way for the next. The action of the lamp encourages the viewer to stop, observe, and contemplate the process, promoting a level of meditation that can be tough to come by this time of year.
The project is part of a collaboration with Booo, a Dutch brand introducing its first collection which also includes a squeezable rubber bulb from Nacho Carbonell and Formafantasma’s fixture made from a polymer derived from insect poop. “Lightbulbs now last for up to 20 years with normal use; this is why we think they’ll become more precious objects,” Booo’s director Fernando Arias van Oordt tells Co.Design. “With new technologies it’s possible to design and produce these for a similar cost to standard LED lightbulbs.” The company’s ultimate goal is to realize “innovative concepts that can be of real use to people,” and though a bubble-blowing lamp might not make as much sense as a domestic piece, they are discussing putting it into production.
It’s fitting, too, that the Surface Tension Lamp will be shown at the Spazio Rossana Orlandi. Each year, the gallery and shop shows a series of impeccably curated installations within the historic walls of its ancient building and courtyard, offering a welcome oasis of centered calm in the fray.