Gravity is a modular task light made from aluminum extrusions and cast concrete that incorporates a number of unique design elements concealed beneath a minimal exterior. It transforms from a compact sculpture into a fluidly positionable light source as soon as the user begins to unfold it, and its seamless motion through wide range of positions allow the user to effortlessly direct light wherever desired.
It employs counterweights that allow it to hold any desired pose with no sag or spring-back, and its specially designed magnetic joints allow disassembly merely by pulling the sections apart, allowing the user to reconfigure the lamp as desired.
I often seek to highlight invisible phenomena in my work, looking to the edges of perception or beyond the familiar boundaries of everyday materials and natural laws, and this project was no exception. For Gravity, I employed a highly exploratory design process to create opportunities to experience the surprising discoveries that I try to recreate for my users.
My goal was to design an elegant and simple positionable light source for analog desk work with minimal visual footprint. I wanted to allow the user to place the light exactly where desired without sag or springback, and work around the lamp or look past it without obstruction to vision or cognitive strain.
I drew inspiration for the design from the classic balancing Tizio lamp, the fluid motion of Alexander Calder's kinetic sculptures, and from the tranquil elegance of Japanese stone Toro lanterns.
With a nod to the studied carelessness of a sleight-of-hand artist, I concealed a number of features within the minimal design gesture of the lamp to imbue its interactions with a sense of playful curiosity. The lamp transforms from an apparently simp
le sculpture into a versatile light source as soon as the user begins to unfold it, and its simple exterior conceals hidden counterweights and hinges tuned to allow the lamp to glide between positions with exquisite smoothness and unexpectedly float in any position without apparent support. Its hinges are a novel magnetic joint created for the project that function as both a sturdy pivot and electrical contact, which also allow the lamp to simply be pulled apart and reconfigured as the user desires.
The cast concrete base was designed to contrast the industrial aesthetic of the anodized aluminum body and ground the lamp, both visually and to ensure stability. I experimented with the concrete casting process to find the right amount of visual texture and irregularity, recalling the peaceful earthiness of a slightly misshapen wabi-sabi tea cup.
The hard anodized finish protects the the edges of the lamp from wear, and since the body is connected to ground and functions as the return path for electricity, this also provides electrical insulation and prevents electrical interference. In the event that the lamp is shorted by a conductor while disassembled, the lamp electronics contain a thermal cutoff to prevent damage.
The snap-together magnetic assembly of the lamp's segments permits greater variation in derivative fixtures and will facilitate eventual expansion into a fully modular lighting system.
Materials: hard anodized aluminum extrusions, cast zinc counterweights, cast concrete, machined stainless steel pivot points, neodymium magnets, leds. The LEDs have a 93+ color rendering index to allow the lamp to be used for color-critical work and have a 3000K color temperature to facilitate focus, and produce 500 lumens of light output. The illuminated segment uses a matte PET diffuser to remove hot spots and spreads light at a wide angle for even illumination of the work surface. The lamp runs on 12v DC power, and the female power jack is cast directly into the concrete base. Patent pending.
I approached each aspect of the lamp seeking to try new methods and media to expand my palette and produce surprising new ideas to incorporate into the design. The lamp evolved over eight weeks through a highly experimental and iterative process, with each feature involving a variety of physical prototypes at different levels of resolution. Because I was working with a variety of approaches new to me, juggling the different aspects of the project on this timeline and prototyping through setbacks in various new media produced an enjoyable mental stretch and joyful sense of managed chaos, with each new successful approach slowly resolving into focus. The magnetic joints coalesced over a dozen different prototypes. I planned from the start to employ no visible fasteners.
The design developed with a tension between finding unique and counterintuitive ways to create the functionality I wanted, and finding ways of reducing, combining, or concealing features for interaction simplicity and to achieve the desired mysterious effect.