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Anatomy of a Giant

With its personable form and easy functionality, there’s no question that the Anglepoise Original 1227 is a design classic. The success of the table lamp designed in 1934 has resulted in several variations, now including versions three times its size. These are the Original 1227 Giants.

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Anglepoise Managing Director, Simon Terry, to get his take on the origins and engineering behind the Original 1227 Giant and its enduring appeal.

What about the Original 1227 said to you, this would make a great huge floor lamp? At the beginning, did you even think it was functionally possible?

I looked through the company archive over 15 years ago and found a black and white photograph of our family business exhibiting at a Birmingham trade fair. There was a Giant Anglepoise center stage, looking over the products we made, including a range of springs, metal pressings and lamps. The Giant lamp was being used as a giant logo to draw attention to the stand, but it created that wonderful feeling of a “Big Friendly Giant,” and played on my mind.

Scale is something that fascinates us all–from a young child, for whom everything looks huge to later in life when the world starts to feel just that little bit smaller. Scaled up, the anthropomorphic–human-like–qualities of the product work in a fascinating and sculptural way, feeding our mechanistic fascination and harking back to our childhood where everything seemed larger than life.

Herbert Terry & Sons booth at Birmingham trade fair. The spring making company developed the Original 1227 Desk Lamp in collaboration with designer George Carwardine.

As the lamp got bigger and bigger and, we’re assuming, heavier and heavier, what—if anything—had to change about the springs and other adjustability mechanisms?

The first thing you have to understand about any product is its usability and function, and with scale these things inevitably change. In the case of a desk lamp, function can be fulfilled by “finger-tip control.” Let go, and miraculously the lamp holds its position. This principle is central to the unique sprung movement that defines an Anglepoise. A full range of movement is also essential, allowing the product to be focused precisely on intricate tasks, providing appropriate light level without glare.

An oversize or Giant light can no longer be a desk lamp (unless you have a giant desk, of course!), but becomes a floor lamp instead. As such, while the overall aesthetic remains roughly the same, the function totally changes. Castors were essential to facilitate maneuverability, effectively eliminating the need for rotation at the base. The whole light could simply be moved where it’s needed. Scaling up also ensures that the shade is higher and the light beam wider.

The Giant light functions more like a pendant, so maximizing the range of movement was no longer a primary issue. For safety at this scale, additional weight was built into the base, and joints can be locked off. Adjusting the Giant now needs two hands, not simply the tip of a finger! Even the springs, so essential to Anglepoise DNA, do a different job. They are configured to ensure that that the arms will find a natural balanced position where the different components remain apart and safe if all friction is removed from the joints. As for the switch–for ease of use, we moved this to floor level.

Tell us more about the Anglepoise constant tension spring technology.

The Anglepoise lamp was designed by George Carwardine (1887–1947), an automotive engineer specialising in vehicle suspension systems. He developed a lamp which, supported and balanced by a sequence of “constant tension” springs, cams, levers and weights, could be constantly repositioned to focus the light in specific directions, yet remained balanced when held in position. He patented his spring design on July 7, 1932–a design that defines the Anglepoise lamp to this day.

And how about other materials? Was anything tweaked there to account for the change of proportions?

The materials mainly stayed the same–primarily aluminum–although profiles and wall thicknesses were significantly increased for robustness. The shade is still an aluminum spinning, just on a much grander scale. Extra cast iron weights are added underneath the base to increase stability as the product is moved on its casters.

The one proportion that has been tweaked is the shade. The overall proportions are three times the size of the standard desk lamp while the shade is more like two and three quarters, which actually at scale makes it feel proportionally more correct.

How smooth is the functionality of the Giant compared to the table lamp?

The movement is very smooth, thanks to the weight and inertia of the heavier materials. It is now simply a two-handed operation, with locking off as an added function.

What does it take to put one of these big lamps together?

It takes two dedicated members of the team a couple of hours to construct a Giant and package it up, but they’re well practiced. It’s a physically demanding task with heavy components to deal with–and massive spanners to use!

What had to be done to make it suitable for use outdoors?

We had to think long and hard about how the materials could be protected to withstand extreme weather conditions. So, all the main surfaces are powder painted to a highly resilient finish. All adjuster and linkage components and hardware are machined from marine grade stainless steel rather that aluminum. And the electrics have been redesigned to comply with outdoor rating IP 65.

Assuming you wanted to, could you make it even bigger?

Of course we could make it bigger, and there are other products in the market that are closer to four times the size. But we believe this would limit the appeal of a product which, despite its size, is actually quite practical and works remarkably well in smaller spaces, too.

If we did go larger, there would need to be further considerations around usability. For example, some of the adjustment knobs would likely be out of reach, which doesn’t sit comfortably with ease of adjustability as a core principle. And a larger size product would need to be considerably heavier in the base, which impacts on maneuverability, etc.

Original 1227 Giant Outdoor Floor Lamps in an installation at RHS Chelsea (home of the prestigious flower show).

What do you think is the main appeal of the Giant?

Whenever people walk up to the product, it makes them smile. It’s a real statement piece that functions as a light but appears more like piece of sculpture in a space. Take an empty, characterless space, add in a Giant and it’s instantly “furnished.” Despite its size, it is also a very practical floor lamp that is easy to integrate in a diverse range of environments.

Thanks, Simon!

Want to know more about the friendly Giant? Then be sure to check out all the types of Original 1227 Giants here.

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Team Y

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