It’s incredible that something designed nearly a century ago still look so relevant in today’s context. The PH 3/2 Lamp was designed by Poul Henningsen for Louis Poulsen 86 years ago. 86 years! Wow… That, is older than even most of the human beings can declare their age today. Designed between 1925 and 1926, the three-shade system of the PH 3/2 was designed to direct most of the light downwards. Some of the light was let out into the other directions via the three-layer hand-blown opal glass, which is finished glossy on the outside and sandblasted matte on the underside. The result is glare-free illumination with a soft and shadowy glow when viewed from any angle from the sides, to the top.
If you find the numberings of the three-shade lamps confusing (2/2, 2/1, 3/2, 4/3 etc), rest assured that you are not the only one. I am one of you when I first saw the naming conventions. It was until I read up on the meanings of the numbers that I am able to differentiate them. The numbers basically tells you the size of the lamp. Take the PH 3/2 for example which is a hybrid lamp, the top shade measures 30cm in diameter which explains the “3” in the name, while the “2” represents the diameters of the lower shades which uses dimensions from the pure 2/2 original models. Never mind if you don’t get it, you can simply remember that the bigger the first number is, the larger the lamp shades.
Turning the pages of the history books, the PH three-shade lamps are available in 19 versions today and were used to be made with shades of metal. As bulb options were not as plentiful as today in the early 1900s, warm or cold light were diffused based on the painted colours of the underside of the shades. With the introduction of the glass shades, light can be diffused throughout the room and create a omnidirectional illumination. As history tells us, Poul Henningsen was the first person to pursue a scientific approach to light and designed his lamps using the logarithmic spiral as a basis. It is also this scientific methodology, in conjunction with the glass material that made control of glare and shadow a reality.
Personally, I like the PH 3/2 for its appropriate size as a table lamp for the small study desks that I can squeeze in my potential home. After all, we all know that in space is a premium in Singapore apartments and it is unlikely that I will be having a huge room as a study. This translates to a small study desk and a small table lamp would be suitable so as not to take up too much space. My recent love with Anti-Designs (a new term that I discovered recently on designs that adapts to the human form rather than the other way round) made me realized what a perfect match the PH 3/2 would be for my study-desk to be. If I ever get a Maxalto Max Desk for my study room, that classic anti-design would make the PH 3/2 a perfect “partner in table”. Well, both the desk and the table lamps are on my wish list. I will see whether I can afford them in due course when the search for my new home ends.