At Salone Milan 2015, Design Anthology sat down with Michael Anastassiades to discuss his lighting designs for Flos.
Design Anthology: Obviously there is a strong connection between this collection and the last one you created for Flos, but was there any specific inspiration?
Michael Anastassiades: There is a strong connection in the sense that first it comes from the same designer, it’s a language which is very much part of my work. I’m obsessed with the sphere, and that’s very obvious I think. You see the repetition of the sphere. Because for me the sphere is the ultimate primal form. Everyone can relate to it- it’s a very familiar form. And it’s interesting because that sense of familiarity comes from people being comfortable with it. It’s also a big challenge to interpret it and reinterpret it, because the sphere is always in all light fixtures. If you imagine if you were to draw a light pendant, it’s always a round thing. So for me it’s a little bit of a celebration of the sphere. Like making it into a piece of jewelry. And also what’s interesting, when you look at the dictionary at the definition of a pendant it has two meanings. The first meaning is a light that hangs from the ceiling and the second meaning is a piece of jewellery that hangs around the neck. Hence, the name of this fixture.
So it is deliberately meant to be like a piece of jewellery for the home then?
Yes, it is, very much.
I love how simple and elegant it is. What about the rest of the collection?
The other pieces, like this table lamp, which we have been developing for a while now, is already available on the market. It’s called ‘Copycat’ and it’s made of two spheres, a small sphere and a large sphere. So Copy Cat has kind of a humorous angle – it’s like a baby always wanting to mimic a parent. There is that relationship there of what is precious to the big sphere, and the smaller sphere wanting to be like it is actually glowing. It’s quite interesting as a metaphor. It comes in a variety of finishes – gold plating, copper, black and chrome.
I feel like there is a strong relationship between this design and the ball pendants you are known for. Was that deliberate, or is that just the path you’re exploring as a designer?
Well, the scale is different, the application is different, the technology is very different. This is LED. It’s quite amazing you can achieve this glow, warmth and the uniformity of lighting which was not so easy before with a bulb. The ‘ball’ light had a different approach behind it- it was a celebration of the bulb itself. It was a repetition of the bulb shape.
Did you get quite involved in the technology side of the developments? Did Flos come to you and say they wanted to use LED?
Everything is moving towards LED technology- it’s a universal demand, also from the consumers. Everyone is asking for LED, so it’s normal that you would use LED. In some cases, for example with the IC lights, we decided consciously not to use LED purely because the opening was so small and the contact point on the wall is so minimal that the only way to achieve the design technologically was to use Halogen. Halogen is still being used, but they are slowly being phased out- in maybe five years or so. The technology is changing all the time. If you start with wanting to work with LED you can incorporate the limitations, but still maintain the poetry in the design, which can be a challenge.
I can image it must be. You do see a lot of environmentally friendly lighting that isn’t necessarily beautiful. Even the colour of the light itself from new technology like LED is not as nice. To get a balance must be a challenge.
Well, Flos are the masters at that- at getting the right temperature, the right glow, sufficient illumination- you can’t get any better.
Is that part of the appeal for you as a designer to work with someone like Flos?
Well of course it’s part of the appeal. But I believe in relationships. My relationship with Flos is very beautiful. There is amazing communication. It’s a partnership- it’s phenomenal, it’s very constructive. Everyone is joining forces to achieve what you set out to create. There are no politics. There are no complications. Their spirit is the design, the design is up there. Of course it’s a complicated system and structure but everybody has the ultimate goal of maintaining the purity of the idea, and reinforcing that idea, and everybody works towards that. So that’s what makes Flos unique as a company and my relationship with them. The whole structure from the technical people and the CEO to the PR people, the whole team has that target to not compromise the design, to go with the spirit of the design.
Tell us about this floor lamp.
This is Captain Flint- a floor lamp which has a marble base.
Is it based on the previous floor lamp design for Flos with the spherical light?
It’s similar, but it’s different. It’s adjustable- it’s a reading lamp, a ceiling lamp, a wall lamp- it can be everything. It’s dimmable, it’s LED, whereas the IC collection is not LED. So it’s very different in its own right. You can see that I wanted it to be different. There are familiar elements- you could argue that parts of it are similar to IC. It’s kind of everything fused together.
So there is a consistency, but the design is moving forward?
Yeah. It’s an evolution, something evolves into something else.
How did the first collaboration with Flos come about? They obviously approached you to design a collection?
Well they didn’t obviously approach me. It’s interesting because I first met with Piero Gandini–Flos’ CEO–via a different source. The first time he saw my own collection, the mobile chandeliers in the Moss store in New York, he was intrigued. He was very intrigued by what he saw, so he said to himself, ‘who is this guy’ and then suddenly we were introduced to each other, so we met and we talked about things and shared the same passion and he said ‘okay’. So our first project was really the ‘string’ lights.
So how long did it take from first meeting him to the launch of the first collection?
I think the string lights were launched two years ago in Euroluce. The development took about a year and a half, and that was the first time I met Flos and I said okay – let’s do the project. So it’s an amazing lead time for the complexity of such a product.
And you were asked to design a second collection based on the success of the first collection?
No, it’s an ongoing relationship. This is not the end, this is the beginning. What is great about it is the fact that we have a lot of other ideas under development. You know it never stops. It’s just that there are these deadlines we meet and whether that is Salone or another exhibition somewhere else, or a one-off project. We also do amazing one-off exhibitions like we did at the London Design Festival– a beautiful installation at the V&A Museum called ‘Amma’ and it was beautiful- a piece that had an amazing response. We are now doing a project for a house in London which is a 1640 building by Inigo Jones and is part of the Greenwich Conservatory. So it’s good to have the support of somebody like Flos to be able to realise these ideas.
Tell us about this design.
These also part of the new collection for Flos, it plays with two obsessions of mine – the sphere and the reflection. Emotional reflection. What is the real image? What is the virtual image? The part that you see, the missing part of the sphere in the reflection. It’s quite a versatile collection. It’s in LED again. The fact that you can use it as a wall sconce, as a ceiling fixture- there are many different arrangements here and again they are very versatile in the way you position them. The metal finishes are different, and were selected for this particular design. They are very clever in that they help to dissipate the heat.
Can you tell me, other than what you are working on with Flos, what else are you working on?
Well, of course there is also my own new collection.
I don’t want to work with too many companies, that’s not my interest. I’m not one of those greedy designers that wants to be behind every single product and spray their perfume all over the world. I don’t have that ambition. For me it’s about being creative, having the opportunity to be creative.
So even if I am focused on lighting, I’m happy. It’s something I know I can do well, and I know that I have the right support to do it. It’s a beautifully poetic medium.