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.
March 2014 Update: Gino Sarfatti Edition N°1 collection is now available in the US exclusively through the MoMA design store
Historic images courtesy of Archivio Storico FLOS; contemporary images by Frank Hülsbömer