Re-lighting Gino Sarfatti Edition N°1 by Flos

flos-sarfatti-edition1-1-thumb-620x505-57412My new article for Cool Hunting

Gino Sarfatti is possibly the most important lighting designer in the history of Italian design. Between founding the beloved Arteluce in 1939 and selling it to Flos in 1973, the self-taught designer had over 600 lamps and “light fittings” under his name. 2012 would have been Sarfatti’s 100th birthday, and to mark this occasion Flos joined up with curators Marco Romanelli and Sandra Severi Sarfatti to create the first-ever Italian retrospective at the Triennale di Milano.

In celebration of his experimental take on lighting, professionals and the general public alike were invited to re-envision his masterpieces, which are now on display next to the rare historic pieces. Flos accepted this challenge and chose to only reengineer the inside components, leaving Sarfatti’s original shapes to shine. This falls particularly in line with Sarfatti’s progressive approach to lighting, as a designer always ready to adopt new solutions like the first halogen lights.

The upshot of this deeply technical operation is “Re-lighting Gino Sarfatti,” a first edition of five timeless lamps, to be followed in the future by additional collections. Each lamp of the new line is based on LEDs and the handsome marriage of contemporary, energy-saving light sources with retro form.

The original “Modello 607,” a table lamp based on halogen lighting, is now turned into a mass of 42 tiny LEDs, screened off by a diffusor. The shape and functional details are identical to the 1971 design, even in the central dimmer at the base.

The most intense technical intervention is probably that of the “Modello 1095.” This floor lamp is a simple tube that was meant to carry a 12V halogen lamp on top. But as it is, there’s no space for heat-sinks, making it necessary to use LEDs to maintain the same intensity and quality of lighting. Flos technicians found the solution in a patented water cooling system, which makes water flow up and down all along the rod while the lamp is in use.

“Modello 1063” was designed in 1954 and was essentially a vertical fluorescent tube. The original base hosted an electromagnetic ballast. Today this volume is used to hide the dimming system and other electronic devices. In this case too, the neon light has been replaced with a LED module with variable light temperature.

The most iconic piece of the collection is probably “Modello 548,” a classic table lamp with reflected and diffused light, and a characteristic colored cup-shaped diffuser. The main innovation is this case is in old push button switch, which has been turned into an optical dimming sensor.

“Modello 2129” was designed by Sarfatti in 1969 and is an incredibly elegant arc-shaped droplight that can rotate 360 degrees. The only wire is hosted by a transparent tube and, thanks to a counterweight, the reflector can freely be moved up and down. As for the other lamps, the original incandescent light bulb has been replaced with a wide LED surface.

Currently on view through 14 May 2013 at the Flos Professional Space in Milan, the Gino Sarfatti Edition N°1 collection will be on sale later this year in selected design and furniture shops worldwide.

Magna Pars Suites Milano

magna_pars_suites_1-thumb-800x534-54037My new article for Cool Hunting.

Located in the heart of Via Tortona—Milan’s mecca for fashion and design with its plethora of showrooms, advertising studios, architecture and fashion houses, plus hundreds of events during Design Week—the Magna Pars professional complex provides an essential reference point for creativity in the Italian metropolis.

At the helm of Magna Pars is the Martone family, who recently expanded their enterprise by opening Magna Pars Suites Milano. The five-star, suites-only hotel is the world’s first of what they’re calling “hotel-à-parfums”.

“This building is the site of our old essences and perfumes production plant,” explains Roberto Martone about the role of scent in the project. “When we moved out of Milan in the early ’90s we decided not to sell. After several years of restructuring, Magna Pars has become home to temporary events, offices, communication and creative studios.”

Giorgia Martone, Roberto’s daughter, oversees every detail of this ambitious and beautiful development, in which every element is inspired by perfumes and scents. “The whole project is eco-friendly and powered by geothermal and photovoltaic energy,” she says. “The rigorous project by architect Luciano Maria Colombo has privileged structures in wood as well as steel, aluminum and glass.”

Behind the crystal facade, visitors are welcomed into the spacious, open-air lobby, which leads to the reception and garden. The entire structure of the building is inspired by the typical Milanese “casa di ringhiera” (railing house), which is a multi-story building with apartments connected by external corridors. One of the most impressive experiences at Magna Pars Suites lies in the Library Hall. Located at the entrance of the building, this restful area allows the guests to surround themselves with an incredible book collection, all available for reading, and many of which date back to the 19th century. “I spent every weekend for the last six months cataloging, photographing and placing all the books, a total of almost 2,000,” says Giorgia. “Most are here, but they also go to the restaurant and to the rooms.”

Each of the 28 suites takes its name and identity from olfactory essences like flowers (Gardenia, Jasmine, Neroli and Magnolia) and woods (Vetiver, Sandalwood and Patchouli, just to name a few); colors, scents and amenities are coordinated to the theme of the suite. All the interiors are completely furnished with products made in Italy, like Flos lamps, Poltrona Frau sofas and Viabizzuno lighting systems, while all the furniture pieces are made by artisans in the area around Milan. The colors and the dominant essences are also reflected in paintings by students of the Brera Fine Arts Academy, another creative landmark in town. Each suite is governed by a home automation system that allows you to take full control of lighting, curtains, temperature. The suites are all facing the beautiful garden, characterized by the presence of three Liquidambar trees, as well as olive trees, maples, magnolias, hornbeam.

A “secret” door made of copper leads to the Liquidambar cocktail bar, whose interior design is dominated by an impressive onyx counter. The name literally means “liquid amber” and refers to a fragrant natural resin which, when burned, develops a pleasant aromatic smoke.

Da Noi in via Forcella 6, the hotel’s restaurant led by Chef Fulvio Siccardi, serves up dishes from Piedmont as well as traditional Italian cuisine. Before entering the restaurant you can see the exposed wine cellar and the kitchen, and during the summer you can also eat outside in the garden.

Prices average around €300 per night. To book a room at Magna Pars Suites Milano, visit the website.

Flos 50th Anniversary

My new article from Cool Hunting

In its 50-year tenure Flos has truly embodied the spirit of Italian design, serving as a laboratory of experimentation for designers such as Ronan and Erwan BouroullecAchille CastiglioniAntonio CitterioPaul CocksedgeRodolfo DordoniRon GiladKonstantin GrcicPiero Lissoni,Jasper MorrisonMarc NewsonTobia ScarpaPhilippe StarckPatricia Urquiola and Marcel Wanders, just to name a few. Entrepreneurs Dino Gavina, Arturo Eiseinkeil and Cesare Cassina established the brand in 1962 based on the simple values of talent, art and culture, and in 1964 Flos— meaning “flower” in Latin—moved to the Brescia area under the guidance of Sergio Gandini, the visionary who brought in legendary talents like Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni and Tobia Scarpa.

Gandini thus began the brand’s remarkable story of passion, hard work and a near obsessive devotion to experimentation, research and innovation—all of which has been diligently documented in the Flos Historical Archive by Gandini’s wife and the 2011 Compasso d’Oro winner Piera Pezzolo Gandini. With the help of a team of professionals and friends, for the last six years Pezzolo Gandini has undertaken meticulous research, restoration and classification work to bring together prototypes, designs, original drawings, packaging, graphics, advertising, photographs, film clips, books, catalogues, awards and appearances at trade fairs, exhibitions and museums. The archive takes various forms—multimedia, paper and collections of products and objects.

In order to celebrate this important anniversary, Flos is launching an iPad application developed by Mobile Dream Studio. We recently had the chance to preview the app in Milan, and it is not simply a catalogue, but a true journey in the history of design. Sergio and Piera’s son, Piero, the CEO of Flos, collaborated with writer and journalist Stefano Casciani and photographer Ramak Fazel to create a real family history focused on “precision, project and poetry”.

The app—available late April 2012—offers a detailed chronological sequence of facts, full of archived images of the people who started the company, as well as sketches, prototypes, games, products and videos of the production processes.