I like classic cars. And classic 1950s diners. I love art deco architecture. And I love candles. Such wonderful sources of light – soft, fleeting, dynamic, beautiful.
I also love vintage lamps. Edison tried so many filament materials, bulb shapes and gas fills (and vacuums), not to mention the supports, the pinches, the contacts. It’s hard to do something the first time that actually works, but once you’ve done it, the sky’s the limit. Ask the Wright brothers – once they proved that powered flight was possible, in a few short years we were flying across ever-greater bodies of water. But when I fly, I choose to do so in a 737, not in something strung together of spruce and muslin.
"Making a little light by producing an enormous amount of heat is just silly"
Lighting engineers have spent over a century moving us away from incandescent lamps because they know that making a little light by producing an enormous amount of heat is silly.
And yet, walk down Borough High Street, Bleecker Street, Alvaro Obregon here in Mexico City – name your chic destination – and you’d think it was a current technology.
Vintage lamps have become a crutch for interior designers, product designers, architects and indeed, lighting designers. Surely we should be designing something innovative, something that creates beauty in its own right.
I was sitting in a cafe in New York the other day that used just 950W for its general lighting, but then, add the handful of pendants with these lamps, doing no lighting work, and suddenly you add another two or three kilowatts to the electrical load. Because the designer was too lazy to design.
So come on people: let’s use our imagination, let’s create new luminaires that don’t depend on vintage lamps to look beautiful, let’s create new spaces that make new beauty of efficient technologies. Let’s stop using vintage lamps as crutches.