Milan Furniture Fair: Front 29.06.12


One of the highlights of the Salone was an experimental lamp that blew bubbles. It sounds kitsch, like a contemporary version of the lava lamp, but was ingenious, playful and magical. Designed for Booo by Swedish trio Front, known for their life-size Horse Lamp for Moooi (2006), the Surface Tension Lamp is a clever rethinking of the possibilities of the energy-efficient, long-life LED bulb.

Using a tiny motor sourced from a model plane, a fan from a laptop computer, and a few decilitres of soapy water a day, the lamp blows a temporary shade that shimmers in oily, rainbow hues before exploding. When the conditions are humid, as they were in Milan, the bubbles build up in mesmerising columns of four or five. "We calculated that their lamp might blow three million different shades in the 25-year life expectancy of the bulb," says Front's Anna Lindgren.

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The lamp drips a slippery residue, which the team hope further experiments will minimise before it goes into production as a limited edition. They also designed a more commercial lamp for the Dutch company, a closed shape in sandblasted glass – basically a bulb in the shape of an iconic lampshade, "so the whole lamp is lit up but you can't really see the light source". Why would you need to separate them if LEDs have such a long life?

Other new works on show by Front included a leather sofa, decorated in a quilted pattern collaged from the trio's doodles, and the elegant, draped Bead Chair, inspired by the wooden ball seat covers taxi drivers use to make their long shifts bearable (Lindgren describes it as "a massage chair") – both for Moroso. They also designed the Gentle Chair for Porro, which looks like two chairs mated. The seat, rear legs and backrest are fashioned in black leather, so that it seems to cast a sort of shadow, and the padded back flexes comfortably.

Porro also launched a Chameleon Cupboard, a piece of furniture that, like the Surface Tension Lamp, embodies Front's awry interrogation of the everyday. As the name suggests, it changes colour as you open and turn it inside out, a kinetic illusion trick similar to the toy Jacob's Ladder.






Christopher Turner

quotes story

We calculated that their lamp might blow three million different shades in the 25-year life expectancy of the bulb

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