More than 50 years ago, Ingo Maurer was staring at the ceiling from his hotel bed in Venice when, having had after a few glasses of red wine, he developed a fascination for the 15-watt light bulb staring back at him. “Sometimes things get more intense when you’re not quite sober, so I sat down right away and drew my Bulb lamp,” the light designer told German weekly Zeit in 2014.
He said that he crossed over to the island of Murano the very next day to have his design made by the glassblowers: a glass sculpture in the form of a light bulb — with a light bulb inside it. A design classic was born.
Three years after he created it in 1966, the lamp was added to the design collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Inspired by the sun’s rays
Born in 1932, Ingo Maurer grew up on the island of Reichenau in Lake Constance in southern Germany and spent a lot of time with his fisherman father on the water. “I would lie on my back in a boat and look dreamily into the sky,” he once told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. The reflection of the sun rays on the water left a lasting impression on him.
After World War II, Maurer trained as a typesetter in Konstanz and then studied commercial graphics in Munich. In the 1960s, he worked in New York and San Francisco and then returned to Germany to found his own company, Design M, in 1966 — which was later renamed Ingo Maurer GmbH. Here he developed his pioneering lamps and light designs.
Mauer soon became known as the “poet of light.”
Pure, timeless light
“Bad light makes you unhappy,” Maurer once said. He repeatedly proclaimed his love for the light bulb, which became his trademark. While other designers saw it as something to keep hidden under the lampshade, Maurer centered his designs on the bulb itself.
In the 1980s, Maurer also set new standards by working with low-voltage systems and hanging halogen lights on metal cables. In the 1990s, he created light installations for public spaces such as underground stations in Munich, or for Brussels’ famous landmark, the Atomium.
His last work was revealed only two days before his death: Silver Cloud, a 12-meter-long installation of 3,000 silver leaves in the foyer of the Munich Residenz Theater.
Following his death on October 21, tributes have poured in from around the world for the revolutionary industrial designer.
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