Architect and designer Umut Yamac’s Perch Light is an intriguing, playful piece of design. The stylized bird-shaped light sits still on its perch until you pass it, or a draft sets it in motion: then the bird gracefully swings, dipping back and forth whilst staying illuminated. The interactive quality of the kinetic light is one of the things that makes it so appealing; but the design itself, all origami-inspired clean lines and sharp folds, is beautiful even when the bird is resting.
Yamac, whose previous work includes domestic objects as well as designs for public spaces, showed the lamp at London’s designjunction, where it caught Cool Hunting’s attention during the London Design Festival. The birds, which take four to five days to produce and are handmade in London, will be made to order. We caught up with the London-based designer in his studio to talk about the inspiration behind Perch and his fascination with movement and balance.
How did you move from architecture to creating light pieces?
I was working on a project where everything was bespoke, the glazing, window frames…it was all handmade by a craftsperson, and I was designing bespoke locks for the doors, because you couldn’t use conventional locks. So it’s always coming back to these one-to-one details, and whilst I was studying I was also making quite a lot of kinetic work. UCL, where I was studying, is an art-based architecture school, so you’re quite free to explore what architecture is to you, and I explored it to movement and materials, storytelling. So, in a way, my work now is a continuation of that.
When did you begin the Perch Light project?
It must have started a year ago and, bit by bit, it’s been developing ever since. The project started in quite a crude way, with just the idea of balancing—there’s something exciting about things that balance, the potential for movement. The light has got layers to discover and there’s different ways to interact with it, and as an architect I find that interesting. I guess I’m interested in the imaginary, as well. Ultimately, I just try to make playful work.
What were your thoughts behind the lamp’s design?
I realized that it’s not pleasant to see the light source, and was thinking about how you can control how you see the light. It’s not nice to see the lightbulb, either—it’s something else that somebody else has made. So I was considering how you can control every element of the light and started thinking of how to house the light in this, my take on origami. The process of making the lamp is very delicate. It is made from archival paper, LEDs and brass. I tested a few different papers and they’re so different when they have light coming through—the grains, the colors. I liked how the light came through in this paper.
Is there a specific reason that you chose the bird shape?
The bird is quite a familiar shape, which I like—people can immediately recognize it, and then you combine it with something unexpected. In terms of interaction, I’m interested in the way that the birds interact with objects, because they do balance so if you walk past it, it responds with a slight movement. So there’s this idea that they respond to the space and have the potential to interact with it. I think that goes back to architecture—not just thinking about how to make the object itself, but about how it works within its surroundings.
Images by Tom Gildon, courtesy of Umut Yamac