The Criosfera lamp from Artemide expresses in a single object Giulia Foscari’s dual vocation as designer and activist for the defense of Antarctica

At the intersection of design and activism, one finds ever more designers and architects who are wrestling with the environmental emergency.

To the point where Artemide entrusted the brief for a project to Giulia Foscari, a young architect who since 2019 has happily and pragmatically been dividing herself between two professional identities. UNA-Unless is her studio, which explicitly combines the dual activities.

UNA deals with architecture, especially in the fields of museums, exhibitions and art. Her alter ego UNLESS is a non-profit agency engaging to transnational research into the Commons of Humanity.

Her collaboration with Artemide has led to the creation of Criosfera, a highly symbolic lamp that combines design practice and passionate commitment to the defense of Antarctica in a single object of use.

A table and floor lamp that retraces the complexity of the largest continent on the planet in a positively didactic way. Fourteen million square kilometers almost entirely covered with ice or made up of it, which Giulia Foscari describes as follows: “Antarctica is a mystery, a huge part of the planet about which very little is known and even less is said."

The reasons for Foscari’s interest become clear when listening to her.

“It is an area where scientific interests are concentrated, as well as economic and political. A treasure trove of resources and, above all, of fundamental scientific data to understand the health of the planet.

The harshness of the temperatures makes it the place of geological memory and catastrophic events that characterize the current evolution of the Earth, a time capsule enabling scientists to trace the climate history of our planet and to affirm that never, in the last 800,000 years, during glaciations and interglacial periods, have CO2 levels been so high.”

Criosfera from Artemide is therefore simultaneously a memento and a container of information crucial for environmental awareness. An optimistic call to action, says Foscari.

Perhaps because there is a lot of aesthetic research in an attempt to render the brilliance and transparency of ice.

“The form of Criosfera resembles the ice cores studied by scientists to analyze the information accumulated in different geological epochs. Formally, it consists of a layering composed of a cylinder of blown recycled glass, an optical core inspired by the refractive nature of the icy surface of the Antarctic plateau, and an inner core of LED lights that evokes the stratification of the ice.”

The form of the devices on which Criosfera can be placed is borrowed from the scientific instruments used on the continent, transforming it into an independent and above all expressive object.

“A line scored on the devices indicates the CO2 levels associated with different eras, until the orange line marking the unprecedented CO2 record registered in 2024,” explains Foscari.

So what does protecting Antarctica mean? “First of all, it means giving continuity to the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, which clearly enshrined territorial policies, preventing its unilateral exploitation and claims to territorial sovereignty.

Concretely, the commitment of Unless has resulted in an open access text entitled Antarctic Resolution. One hundred and fifty global experts compiled a reference book on science, technology and design. It is the basis on which to find a united voice on the issue.”

At the same time, UNA/UNLESS is also involved in the 60th Venice Biennale with Swell of spæc(i)es, a commission from the LAS Art Foundation for the pavilion housing the work of the artist Josèfa Ntjam at the Accademia delle Belle Arti. An apparently hermetic and inaccessible blue prism that in 350 square meters houses a work intended to investigate the political dimension of the oceans, a theater of domination and human supremacy and, at the same time, a space of resistance and generation. “An architecture that dialogues, between visual contrasts and compositional references, with the porticoed courtyard of the Accademia di Belle Arti. And that becomes the ideal container for the work of Josèfa Ntjam and her celestial virtual realms projected into Swell of spæc(i)es.”