Brands

FontanaArte at lightjunction

Our fine lighting event, lightjunction, taking place as part of designjunction during the London Design Festival (17-21 September), has a very specific purpose. It is to increase specifiers’ awareness and understanding of high quality, relevant suppliers of decorative lighting. I'm highlighting some exhibitors in these posts, to give an idea of how the brands were chosen.FONTANA ARTE

Why learn about FontanaArte?

In my previous post about Cini&Nils, I pointed out that brands can change, so we need to keep you up-to-date with what they are doing. I can think of none that has changed more radically than FontanaArte! And what they have changed to is as notable as what they have changed from. This matters, because theirs is still one of the very finest collections of contemporary lighting, with classic designs in their catalogue from the 1930s and every decade since.

What have they changed from? Strong designs from different designers and periods mean that theirs is a very varied collection, but the one thing in common has always been that they were made of glass. Glass, glass, glass. In fact, FontanaArte was created in 1932 to make glass lighting and furniture: it grew out of the Milanese glass company, Luigi Fontana.  The acquisition of Candle in 1993 gave them a second brand under which they could explore other materials. When the Candle brand name was dropped and the two collections amalgamated, FontanaArte now had some non-glass lights, but the collection was — and triumphantly still is — predominantly glass.

So, imagine the surprise when the stand at Light+Building in April had no glass lights!!! 

Actually it did have one glass light, but it was shut away behind a locked door, like the things in jars in the Salzburg Natural History Museum’s collection that are not suitable for children. But, if you were allowed in, what an exciting discovery there was: the Total Black version of the iconic Fontana, designed by Max Ingrand in 1954, available in all three sizes:

Of course, there is no such thing as black glass, so when the lamps inside are lit (in the base as well as the shade, separately switched), the Fontana Total Black reveals itself to be a wonderful blackcurrant colour:

So what have FontanaArte changed to? Well, if one did not know better, one would assume that the latest collection was from a Scandinavian company. Or, put another way, very, very fashionable!

Look at the colours. This is Cloche, an update of Pudding from 1995. There is a light grey and a dark grey — i.e. bang on the money. There is also a yellow, but it is not a bright Mediterranean yellow: it is darker, dirtier — a northern, urban, mustard yellow.

Igloo also comes in two tones of grey, and shares with Cloche a matt finish. But there is a lot more than that to Igloo. The material it is made of, for example: it has a double shell of self-extinguishing plastic technopolymer. But what is most remarkable is how much you can do with it. There is a single module. Here are nine of them in a row, all pointing downwards:

And here are another nine, this time pointing up and down:

Here is a close-up of four in a square:

As you can see, it is extremely versatile. It is also easy to use. It is, in fact, a modular, self-supporting system of spotlights that, thanks to a series of electromechanical connections, and curves and spacers, allows for the consecutive linking of up to 200 units without the need for any additional power cable! Here are two arrangements of seven hanging vertically:

It takes mains power (no separate power supply to locate) and dimmers are available. Just think how quick and simple installation could be — and how economical!

Vitro is a simple, elegant, very effective design that makes use of new materials.

The body always has a satin opal finish. It is the prismatic diffuser that can be changed: it comes in satin, transparent, chrome and bronze.

Vitro can also be ceiling mounted. So, you see? The look of it, and its name, suggest glass, but though it is from FontanaArte, it is not glass!

Actually, we should not have been so surprised by their move away from glass. There was not much glass in evidence in their 2013 collection, that included the amazing, 64cm high Odeon. This is a new type of luminaire; you have it facing a wall, so that is generates reflected light. It is the beautiful leather upholstery covering it that one sees:

And the body of Yupik is made out of polypropylene foam!

This makes it incredibly lightweight, yet robust, and a practical example of a currently-popular type of light — one that is on a long cable so that it can be hung, stood up, and moved around generally.

Needless to say, such radical and successful designs come from radical and successful studios. Yupik is by Form Us With Love, Vitro by Emmanuel Babled and Odeon is by Studio Klass, as is Igloo. Other achingly fashionable designers with whom FontanaArte are working include Studio Drift and Gamfratesi. So if you want to know what is happening in contemprary lighting design, spend some time on FontanaArte’s stand at lightjunction — for the Scandinavian aesthetic, the colours, the finishes, the materials, the new typologies, the cool designers…! In the process, you’ll also learn about a very practical, useable collection.

The light at the head of this email sums all this up. It is Lunaire by Ferréol Babin. The centre section can be moved in and out like a drawer, altering how the light is cast. Push it in, and the light emerges as a penumbra around the the larger disc. Pull it out and the centre of the larger disc is illuminated:

It comes in various finishes, so besides looking minimal and contemporary as above, it can also look luxurious:

Or mysterious…

You are going to kick yourself if you do not come along to lightjunction to experience these lights for yourself, aren't you!

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