A visit to the lab of the brand that bears the name of the great master who passed away: where his team continues to invent light

To welcome those arriving at the door of the Ingo Maurer showroom in Monaco, in Kaiserstrasse, there is a huge transparent cylinder. About 3 meters high, half a meter wide, it is filled with water almost to the brim. A propeller, positioned in the lower part, agitates the blue liquid, generating a conical vortex that pushes the gaze upwards where a luminous buoy floats.

Read also: Ingo Maurer, where does the light go, orphan of its magician?

It could be the enormous flask of an alchemist. Or the bottle of a giant pharmacist experimenting with formaldehyde. In any case, it wouldn't be out of place on the set of Poor Things or a Tim Burton film...

Designing light starting from character

Curiosity, questions, estrangement, flights of fancy, dives into cinematic imagery: he, Ingo Maurer, would be happy to know how much his objects stir the hearts and brains of those who contemplate them.

For the great artist and light designer, who passed away in 2019, each project has in fact always been first and foremost a subject: a personality to be built with his team, which is refined and continues to regenerateeven when it leaves the shop, through the gaze of the observer.

Five years after the death of the master, nothing has changed in the way of designing of Ingo Maurer, meant here as a company and brand: since 2022 controlled by Foscarini but, creatively speaking , led by Axel Schmid who was the maestro's right-hand man for decades.

Nothing has changed, we were saying.

In fact, when Schmid or one of the other designers talk about a work of light, the first word they say is 'character'. A term imported from narrative and not from lighting design. As if they were discussing novels or fairy tales rather than lamps.

What does giving light a character mean?

“We are first and foremost interested in character with our lamps,” says Axel Schmid.

“Each is a plot, the incipit of a story that must be completed by those who install it, use it, observe it: at night but also during the day. The technology is there where it is needed. We do a lot of research and development but we're not interested in showing it. We were among the first to use halogens, to creatively program LEDs, to experiment with luminous fabrics and surfaces: but technology remains a tool for giving shape to the personality of that immaterial material that is light ”.

In the showroom, we are struck by a lamp that seems to have been created to transform us into puppeteers, to push us to move its revolving wings and magnetic LEDs to see what happens on the stage (it's called Kamishibai, like the Japanese street theater).

And another, called Reality: it is a (real!) egg shell, cut lengthwise on one side and with a LED inside attached to a wire, to be hung like a mini-suspension. It seems made to make us take care of the fragile beauties that surround us.

To see all the lamps, look at the Reel

There is obviously the iconic Zettel'z, which Ingo Maurer wanted to be co-designed by those who purchase it (so much so that it is delivered with a set of white sheets on which to draw). There are OneNewFlame LED candles (designed with Moritz Waldemeyer, with randomly shaped flames generated by a self-generating algorithm) and wax ones to hang from the ceiling (thanks to a very thin metal wire they remain suspended in mid-air).

From the luminous tape measure (which moves in and out of a joint that keeps it anchored to the wall, self-locking like a yardstick) to the lamp with the infinite cable (to be used to leave signatures in the space, which is called Signature) Ingo Maurer's lamps all seem made to involve us, shake our certainties, force us to ask ourselves questions.

Whether they are funny, ironic, mysterious or aggressive or grumpy, they are always exquisitely open and unfinished works: the attention and involvement of those who use will complete them.

The light of Ingo Maurer after Ingo Maurer

In the Munich showroom, many lamps were created after the death of Ingo Maurer but it is difficult to understand which ones.

How does the team carry out the Maestro's approach seamlessly?

“It's actually simple because ours has always been a laboratory of co-design and shared research”, explains Axel Schmid.

Contrary to what usually happens, however, at Ingo Maurer's they do not start from a workshop to generate ideas but from an intuition that can come to anyone and the team arrives later to adjust the aim.

“Someone has an idea, thinks of a character to give birth to: pop, aggressive, surprising, calming… And they start designing. When they have some prop in hand they start discussions with the others, bringing different perspectives on the topic: often arriving at a result very far from what was expected at the start. We worked like this with Ingo and we continue like this now."

It is a modus operandi very far from that of lighting companies: the starting point of which is always, inevitably, the function that the lamp must have (pendant, table, floor, decorative, architectural, indoor or outdoor ) and the quantity of light it must emit (atmosphere, task lamp, step lights, etc.).

And it is an approach that almost surprises in the completely programmed era, of marketing built on Big Data, of predictive artificial intelligence.

“Here is the project that we will bring to the FuoriSalone 2024”, says Schmid as he accompanies us into the design studio on the first floor. “There's no need to take photos or take notes because surely in a couple of weeks from now we will have changed our minds about almost everything”, he explains.

Isn't it a little stressful? “Maybe,” he admits. “But if you already know where you want to go, you will never create something truly new.”

How can you blame him…