Flos laboratory – Photography Olya Oleinic-Formafantasma
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Formafantasma: a lamp made of LED and rubber – «there are no good or bad materials»

After their first project WireRing, Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin present their new lamp for Flos, where the simplicity of the materials meets the complexity of the ideas

Flos and Formafantasma introduce WireLine

Two years after it was first presented during miart in 2019, Flos is launching to the public its latest collaboration with the design duo Formafantasma, WireLine. Consisting of a glass tube, which encapsules the LED light, and an electric wire, this lamp follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, WireRing, created by the duo of designers in 2017.

Like its predecessor, the lamp is stripped of all frills and trims and presented in its essential form: an electric wire and a light bulb; but while WireRing was conceived as a more ‘domestic’ object, this latest project veers into architectural territory becoming almost an installation. «While with WireRing we created a more domestic object, in a smaller scale, with WireLine we aimed for an architectural scale, where the object becomes scenographic while still technically being an object made of few elements, again a source of light and a wire», states the duo. «The opportunity that WireLine offers is that of composition: it’s an object that can be concatenated one to the other which leave a lot of freedom to the person installing them to create ad hoc compositions for the space they’re working on»

Focusing on the wire: WireLine and WireRing

Made of a large, flat rubber wire which ranges from two to eight meters depending on how you install it and presented in two chromatically unusual colors like pink and forest green which make the lamp stand out even more, the wire is deliberately the focal point of the design of this lamp. « Often, even in the digital renderings of the lamps, the electric wire is deleted as if it was something superficial while in truth it’s what allows the lamp to work. We wanted to focus on this object which is the founding element of a lamp and we wanted to do that not by just acknowledging it but by making it the focal point».

What Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin achieved with this lamp is changing our expectations when it comes to light design and refocusing them on the founding elements of light. By putting them front and center and adopting such a large scale and bright colors, they allowed for the wire and the source of light to become a piece of design in their own right, instead of the often-hidden elements they usually are. This required meticulous work conducted by them along with the Flos team to make sure that those two elements were indeed perfect.

«The most challenging part from an engineering point of view was the rubber», stated Trimarchi, «because the final object is so minimal, if the curve of the rubber isn’t perfect the result can’t be right». «The light source proved to be challenging as well», continues Farresin, «because it’s a 360-degree light we had to work hard to find the optimal engineering of the light source so that we could get this 360-degree light in the proportion we wanted. We also worked on the extrusion part, trying different ones, because we wanted the quality of the glass to be highlighted by the light»

Are there bad materials to be used in design?

Despite its complex engineering, WireLine was made using only four materials: rubber, glass, the LED parts, and the stainless steel which is used to hold the parts together. «One interesting aspect of this lamp and the materials we used is that, for the most part, they are produced by extrusion, so in terms of production, you are left with little to no waste».

Extrusion is a process used to create objects of a fixed cross-sectional profile by pushing material through a die of the desired cross-section. One of the advantages of this process is that when waste material is created, it can be reworked and mixed with virgin raw material to be used again in the subsequent production cycle thus reducing the overall waste of the production. The design duo is mindful of the materials they use in their projects, going beyond a superficial documentation and diving deep to understand the different implications of using that material.

This was evident in their exhibition Cambio, inaugurated in March 2020 at the Serpentine Gallery of London and then moved in May 2021 to the Centro Pecci in Prato, which consisted in an investigation through interviews and documentation on the production and governance of the timber industry. What both designers stress is that they «don’t have any limitation when it comes to materials. It depends on how you use them; there are no good or bad materials. Each material has its own dignity and it’s how you use them that determines their quality or lack of. The ecological development of a company or a product has to be carried out at a strategic level which encompasses not only the product’s design but also the provenance of those materials, their refining process and so on»

‘WireLine’, Flos. Photography Olya Oleinic
‘WireLine’, Flos. Photography Olya Oleinic

Repairability and durability

Instead of only focusing on the sustainability of the materials, Formafantasma decided to focus on its repairability and durability. «We have to think of ecology and sustainability as contextual to the object but also to the product and the system of reference. It’s the case with plastic: we can see it in the oceans, it stays there for hundreds of years, so it’s a material that, if used correctly, can potentially live forever. Again, it’s the use you make of a material to determine if it’s sustainable or not. Then there are also the production processes which have to be taken into consideration, but you can’t stop at the material in itself».

Durability and repairability go hand in hand for the designers who believe that in order to achieve the former you have to assure the latter. One of the pre-requisites of the lamp was that it be repairable. To do that they worked with Flos to make sure that the glass tube that contains the LED light could be disassembled so that it’d be easy to change the LED should there be the need to do so. Both designers believe however that there’s still much work to be done when it comes to repairability of LED lamps.

«Lighting is one of the few sectors of design where there has been a true technological innovation which changed everything, from planning, to use, to human experience: the LED. However, that’s where there’s the most work to be done when it comes to a product’s repairability. Changing a lightbulb it’s easy but changing a LED stripe within an engineered and specific product it’s much more complex because we don’t have a standard yet. So that’s the area of planning where we need to amplify its efficiency from an ecological and sustainable point of view»

Art vs design

Having created an object which required this level of engineering and having done it in such a big scale, it would be common to assimilate WireLine to a work of art. The light was presented in 2019 at Miart, the international art fair which takes place in the city of Milan, seemingly reiterating its connection to the art world. Yet that’s not what Trimarchi and Farresin believe, maintaining that theirs is a work of design and they are designers.

«We’re often asked whether we see ourselves more as artists or as designers, and our answer is that, even if our research and study work could be assimilated to artistic practice, we are designers. What we do is questioning our design practice; but that doesn’t mean that we’re artists. We might use instruments that come from the art world such as video, but we are designers and so are our works. And the proof of this is that even when the lamp was presented at miart, it was located in the VIP lounge, and it was a decorative object»

Formafantasma beyond design 

What’s clear with Formafantasma is that each one of their projects – be it a lamp for Flos or an entire exhibition– isn’t just driven by sheer creativity but based on research and attention to detail. «Before working with Flos, we studied what light was, we started an independent project through which we worked on the idea of light and that’s when we started learning the fundamentals of light. Then, when we got here, we learned how to elevate those ideas to a higher level which was the industrial one», state the duo.

Their approach appears to be closer to a scientific method and their work the result of a scientific experiment, and while they don’t consider their work as scientific research – or at least not an academic one – they do agree that there’s something in their approach which could be assimilated to that of a scientist. «Let’s say that we often use the same instruments as scientific research, but other than that the production is wholly empiric», state the designers, «what we take from that kind of research is the structure: so, when we start a new project, one of the instruments we use most are interviews and the analysis of those interviews.

One thing that we’re trying to pass on not only to the design world but also to the students we work with is the idea of sharing, which is something that’s present in scientific research but not so much in the design world. This aspect of the sharing and the research is instrumental to our work». It’s this attitude towards their work which makes Formafantasma impossible to describe as only a design studio.

The name itself alludes to a lack of form or better yet a mutating one, which can evolve and adapt with the situations – but rather as a movement, if not a political one then a civil one where their commitment is a human one other than a professional one. «Our project doesn’t end with us but it can be shared by another generation which will probably have less limitations, less clichés and less restrictions than ours. I hope that our students do better than us and be more radical, and more political and more engaged and they are»

Formafantasma 

A research-based design studio investigating the ecological, historical, political and social forces shaping the discipline of design today. After launching their first lamp for Flos in 2017, the WireRing, in 2019 they presented their latest design in collaboration with the Italian maison, WireLine. The lamp has been launched to the public in November 2021 .

Jolanda Paci

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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