The Ask: Recreate the famous "Titania" Lamp by designers Alberto Meda and Paolo Rizzatto
The Solution: A silver painted chipboard version of the original aluminum version, with true-to-original dimensions, construction, counterweight, and lighting gels.
The Class: Form and Composition
The Program: SMU Masters of Arts in Design and Innovation
The Timeline: November '17
For my Form and Composition class I was asked to redesign the "Titania" lamp as part of a final project in the Industrial Design segment of the class. This process was constrained by both time and money, as I was only given four weeks to complete the project and a budget of just $200 to create the most realistic recreation of this famous, modern lamp produced in 1980 by Italian designers Alberto Meda and Paolo Rizzatto under their lighting company, Luceplan. Using only a rough .dxf file provided by Luceplan and various pictures of the lamp in use, I was able to build multiple iterations of the lamp using a laser cutter and various paper products at different stages. The final result was strikingly similar to the original lamp, even though the materials used were vastly different in quality and nature. My step-by-step process is described below.
As computers were entering the mass market, Meda and Rizzatto decided to take advantage of the new design medium and created their first lamp that was markedly different from ones formed with just analog tools. Likewise, I chose to use AutoCAD to design all of 98 pieces used to create the lamp. I started with a dimensionless .dxf file provided by the manufacturer and a collection of images of the lamp installed in homes and offices, I created the horizontal ribs first testing the assembly in cardboard before moving on.
I took the .dxf of the horizontal ribs and used a laser cutter to cut out the pieces in cardboard. Using the cardboard prototype, I was able to learn a number of things about the composition of the lamp. First, I realized that maretial thickness was going to be a bigger concern than I had thought. As I had no access to a water jet or the budget to afford sheet aluminum (as the original designers did) I had to find an alternative material that provided the same structural support as aluminum but remained inexpensive. The thickness of the cardboard prototype showed me that each piece of the lamp was going to have to account for the material thickness of other pieces to which it is joined. As there were countless slots cut into the different pieces of the lamp, almost ever slot had to be specifically offset by half of the material thickness, either below or above the center line according to its relation to other pieces. With this in mind, I moved on to create the rest of the pieces for the lamp and test using 4-ply chipboard.
While using inferior 2-ply chipboard would have allowed me to ignore material thickness and given me the ability to be less precise with all of my cuts and measurements, 2-ply does not have the strength to accurately represent the original lamp as it tends to bend very easily when put under stress. 4-ply, while less forgiving to work with, ended up yielding a much stronger, robust lamp. The material was thick enough to not deform when joined to other pieces and hold up when accidentally knocked over or otherwise jostled. In the creation of the vertical ribs and the vertical disks, alignment proved to be a continual difficulty. Since I had no real measurements to use to align the pieces, I had to create multiple iterations of single joints on the lamp, redesigning, laser cutting, and assembling until the pieces fit correctly.
After finally getting the dimensions, orientations, and slots cut correctly into the pieces, I did my first trial of assembling the whole lamp. I was pleasantly surprised that the pieces all fit together correctly and stayed locked together once secured. To permantently join all of the pieces together, I was able to use rivets, as were used in the original lamp. The chipboard held up perfectly well under the tension that the rivets exerted. In all, there are only 14 rivets that hold the whole lamp together.
Next, I designed each of the ribs for the central lighting box. These ribs were cut in such a way that the light source is never directly visible to the human eye during normal use. When hung, the light is diffused among all of the 75 ribs and discs, allowing the light to evenly illuminate the area, without causing harsh effects. The light source itself is a 60W LED array with a custom bulb that fit the dimensions of the lamp body perfectly. The cord for the bulb was bundled with the suspension system and eventually ceiling mounted.
The original lamp came with a set of filters to color the light emanating from the bulb, casting a colorful glow to the room. I laser cut a set of stage lighting gels to with the right dimensions to fit snuggly against the bulb housing. A user can quickly and easily interchange the filters to create a range of moods with the lamp from a bright, vibrant yellow, to a deep, peaceful purple. The user can even place different colors on each side of the bulb, adding to the variety of feelings that the lamp
While the chipboard did prove to be structurally robust, there was virtually no reflection of the light without painting the material with metallic spray paint. After testing a selection of different paints, I was able to ensure each piece got evenly coated and exhbited similar reflective qualities to the original aluminum construction. The lamp was finally assembled, riveted together, and suspended with monofilament line complete with faux counterweight. Overall I was most proud of the craftsmanship I was able to exercise in the creation of a high quality final product. Specifically, I was glad that all of the pieces were designed and cut with tight enough tolerances such that the whole lamp was held together with only 14 rivets, even though there was a total of 128 joints. See the gallery below for a collection of photos from the final lamp displayed with a variety of the color filters in use.
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