New early 20th century Viennese re-editions from Woka

Woka Lift tall floor light Die neuzeitliche Wohnung Woka have released another batch of their fabulously well-produced collection of lights from the early 20th Century in Vienna -- designs by Josef Hoffmann, Otto Wagner, Adolf Loos, Kolo Moser, and this stunning floor light that was shown at the Neuzeitliche Wohnung exhibition about modern flats staged in Vienna in 19030/31.

The light can be adjusted up and down as the cable passes through the curved tube at the top...

Woka Lift floor light detail

...the effect of which can be seen in these period pictures:

Woka Lift floor light period images

It comes in polished brass or nickel, is H200cm, W55cm, takes a 60W lamp and costs €3,400.

By the way, this system was obviously appreciated in Vienna at the time, because the Reibe wall light from the Werstätten collection that the 130-year-old firm Kalmar is building from its archive does the same thing:

Kalmar Reibe wall light

But when,  in about 1923, an anonymous designer on the periphery of the Bauhaus wanted to create a floor-standing reading light with the same range of adjustment, they used a different mechanism to create this fabulous machine:

Tecnolumen floor light reading light BH23Woka, Kalmar, Tecnolumen....unintentionally we've got the three most important sources of early 20th century Austro-German designs into one post!


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The Bauhaus: BH23 Floor Light with Counterweight from Tecnolumen

floor light with counterweight BH23 from tecnolumen

As will be seen at the major Bauhaus exhibition at London's Barbican, not all the products designed at the Bauhaus are attributable to a specific individual. Tecnolumen have re-ssued a number of Bauhaus lights that are anonymous, including BH23, this wonderful floor-standing reading light with a counterweight.

Here it is, adjusted and in a real space:

Floor light with Counterweight BH23 from Tecnolumen

It shows typical construction details from the early Bauhaus period: wall lights with similar mechanics were designed by Marianne Brandt and K J Jucker.

Having immersed themselves so deeply in the Bauhaus history and aesthetic, Tecnolumen are able to add to their collection lights that were not designed at the Bauhaus but that are in the same spirit. The most famous is the world's finest desk light, with the  balancing system patented by Eduard-Wilfred Buquet in Paris on 9 february 1927 (at just before half past four in the afternoon...) -- the EB27:

EB27 E-W Buquet desk light from tecnolumen

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The Bauhaus: DMB30 by Marianne Brandt from Tecnolumen

DMB30 ceiling light by Marianne Brandt from Tecnolumen Marianne Brandt was one of the most prolific designers of lights at the Bauhaus which, like Wilhelm Wagenfeld, she joined in 1924 to study under László Moholy-Nagy.

This ceiling light, DMB30, is one of series that she designed for Schwintzer & Gräfe, who launched them in their catalogue for the 1928/29 season. It is quite large, at Ø60cm. It is such a cliché to say that it could have been designed yesterday, but it is useful to be reminded how timeless such a design is. It is therefore highly suitable for any project where the interior is intended to last, and not feel outdated during its life.

Other lights of hers are so much part of the current language of lights that it is as if they have always been around -- that no-one actually created them. A good example is HMB25, a metal rise'n'fall:

hmb25 by marianne brandt from tecnolumen

or DMB26, an architypal design, helpfully available as a ceiling light:

dmb26 ceiling light by marianna brandt for tecnolumen

or as, DMB27, a pendant:

hmb27 pendant light by marianne brandt for tecnolumen

Whilst the Bauhaus exhibition is on at the Barbican in London, there will be no shortage of information easily available about the Bauhaus. However, Tecnolumen's commitment to the Bauhaus extends to very useful, relevant and practical information that will always be available on their web site. This includes a bibliography of book and web sources, should you be interested in taking your understanding of the Bauhaus further.

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The Bauhaus: WG24 by Wilhelm Wagenfeld from Tecnolumen

WG24 table light by Wilhelm Wagenfeld from Tecnolumen The biggest Bauhaus exhibition in London since 1968 has just opened at the Barbican. As people become re-acquainted with the output of the School -- particularly of those who taught there -- as well as with the quality of design that it facilitated, and the influence that it has had ever since, there will be delight that some of the finest designs are still in production.

This is in no small part thanks to Tecnolumen, a company originally formed specifically to re-issue the WG24 that Wilhelm Wagenfeld designed in 1924, whilst he was studying at the Bauhaus under Laszló Moholy-Nagy. It comes in various forms, the version below with the metal (as opposed to glass) base and structure being the WA24.

WA24 table light by Wilhelm Wagenfeld from Tecnolumen

Only Tecnolumen has been licensed by Wilhelm Wagenfeld to manufacture this light. But there are fakes around! Here, Tecnolumen explains how to differentiate the real thing from the fakes (though, in our experience, it is usually easy enough to do by eye, because the fakes are badly proportioned and less well made).

Note that a pair of WG24s looks fabulous either side of a bed. They are well suited to being bedside lights, thanks to the diffused, glare-free light that they cast.

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Is Bill by Tobias Grau the best desk light ever?

Tobias Grau Bill tableLet's first remind ourselves why this question is so very important. It ought to be a civil right that every employee working at a desk has a light on it that is under their direct control. The benefits are:

psychological: they have their own light, in their own bit of space, which they control themselves

practical: only they know exactly where they want the light directed, to avoid glare on their screen, perhaps, or to look at papers on their desk. Their requirements could change regularly throughout the day. Also, the light source is in front of them, so they are never working in their own shadow

environmental: the light source is as near as possible to the thing being lit, so no energy is wasted. Also, if every desk has its own task light, the light levels can be considerably lower elsewhere in the office -- between the desks for example, where the only requirement is that people have enough light not to bump into the furniture

to wellbeing: if there is real, full spectrum light, from an incandescent (halogen)  lamp in the desk light, it does not matter so much what is  being used elsewhere in the office. Proper light will mean that the employee feels happier -- particularly in the winter, when many suffer from SAD, and in offices that have no natural light

financial: if each desk has a task light, less needs to be spent on lights elsewhere in the office, and lighting control systems, which are expensive to buy, expensive to install and complicated to use, are unnecessary.

Now let's look at Bill, designed by Tobias Grau for his eponymous company.

More specifically, why do I -- who can use any desk light I like, and I've tried many -- why do I use Bill?

Tobias Grau Bill head detail

  1. It has a big handle, with an attractive soft touch coating, that I can get hold of firmly, to place the light where I want it. The handle never gets hot. It has the on/off switch conveniently set into it
  2. the head is mounted on a ball set into a socket. This means that I can move the head in any plane. Some desk light heads only move in certain planes
  3. It stays where I put it
  4. the arms have a long reach. A lot of desk lights, particularly LED ones, end up lighting their own bases, rather than what is on the desk. This is pointless
  5. there is still a halogen option and the light is bright. Dim fluorescent or LED sources are not helpful when reading small print, plans or diagrams
  6. it is very well priced.

Note that Bill comes in various versions -- different desk mountings, wall versions (long and short) and floor versions. All have a LED lamp option; Tobias Grau are one of only a very few lighting makers to use LEDs effectively.

So, is Bill the best desk light ever? No. This is,

tecnolumen EB27 desk lightthe EB27, designed, and the balancing movement patented, by Eduard-Wilfried Buquet in 1927, and re-edited by Tecnolumen. It adds to all the virtues of Bill the smoothest, most beautiful, totally mesmerizing movement. It stays where it is put, in any postion, just by the use of counterweights and clever joints.

But it costs ten times as much as Bill.

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