Tradition and highly skilled craftspeople are two things that are very much at home in Vienna, which is where the Austrian manufacturer Woka was founded in the 1980s to reproduce some of the best 20th-century lamp designs. Known for its classic pieces by Adolf Loos, Josef Hoffmann, Koloman Moser, Walter Gropius and the Wiener Werkstätte, Woka’s CEO, Wolfgang Karolinsky, has a team of experts that fashions fine materials by hand into exquisite luminaires.

Back in Britain, Jason Bruges trained as an architect at Oxford Brookes and UCL, and founded his own eponymous studio in London in 2002. He and his team specialise in building interactive installations, marrying light with state-of-the-art technology for a global clientele. Projects range from a New Media Lounge for San Diego International Airport to a dynamic light installation for the Shard in London, and the studio is currently finishing a liquid crystal sculpture for San Antonio in Texas.

Working on the principle that opposites attract, we introduced the two firms and asked them to create a light for our Handmade concept, Hotel Wallpaper*. ‘We enjoyed the juxtaposition between our work and Woka’s,’ says Bruges. His studio often collaborates with specialists to realise its bespoke, site-specific work, but for this project it had to scale down considerably. Woka, too, has worked with contemporary designers; for Vienna Design Week it has paired up with young talent such as Lucidi Pevere and it has an ongoing working relationship with Matteo Thun. For this commission, the dynamic nature of Bruges’ design pushed Woka’s craftsmen beyond their comfort zone.

Bruges’ team had a clear idea of what it wanted to make; a rotating hotel room lamp called ‘Loci’ that is ‘lumino-kinetic’ and inspired by the diurnal path of the sun. ‘Conceived as a reference to the global ubiquity of the hotel room, it calibrates the guest to the outside world,’ explains Bruges. The intention is that as the trajectory of the light changes, so does the ambience of the space. It’s a comforting guiding light for weary globetrotters waking up in a generic room, wondering where they are and whether it is 6am or 6pm.

Woka was responsible for making the brushed-brass lamp hardware for the piece, which holds a single LED that is magnified through a lens and projected onto the surface of a wall. The lamp was no problem for the master metalworkers, but Karolinsky admitted that they baulked a little at the programmed motor, which Bruges’ engineers took care of and then sent over. 

Through a combination of FaceTime calls, technical drawings and the universal language of good design, communications between London and Vienna went well, resulting in the production of this lovely lamp that mixes object design and craft with science and a little poetry. What more could one want? More collaborations? ‘Watch this space,’ says Bruges.

As originally featured in the August 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*208)

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