Meet the Makers: Lievore Altherr for Vibia
The design studio Lievore Altherr was co-founded by Alberto Lievore and Jeannette Altherr, and the multi-faceted duo designs everything from lighting to tableware, to plumbing and washbasins. YLighting has the privilege of carrying the studio’s lighting designs for Vibia. And we here at Design Matters had the privilege of catching up with Jeannette Altherr to talk about their latest Tempo Collection for Vibia and what makes for good lighting design.
How did you get into design?
I was the kind of kid that spent my days drawing, constructing and looking to things, getting completely lost in my own world, so I always knew I wanted to work in the creative field. But although deeply interested in Art, this didn’t felt the right path to me. Too narcissistic, too much self–introspection, while I was searching for a creative application with a repairing, healing, communicating purpose. Looking to the world around rather then self–fulfillment. When I was 14, I discovered by chance a documentary series portraying different designers – design was quite a new field at that time. I remember very well Issey Miyake, which I loved, and Richard Sapper. But the one who struck me most was Milton Glaser: his enthusiasm, warm humanity and open minded curiosity regarding all kind of complex themes was exactly what resonated with me. Since I thought I wasn’t good enough in drawing, I went for product design – and ended up bridging communication (for example being Art Director for Arper) with product design.
So, what makes for good lighting—is there more to it than simply illuminating a space?
Beside the light itself which is obviously very important, and both a challenge as an opportunity to interpret this tailor made with the LED solutions developed by Vibia, we think that sustainability is another key factor. Not just in terms of the energy saving given by the LED, but in terms of getting a design you actually can deeply connect to. To get an emotional connection to an object is maybe the best way to make sure it will be kept and cherished over a long time. As designers we are in a moral dilemma between being part of a system based on constant consumption, while knowing that this is exactly the problem. There are interesting sustainability strategies around renting instead of buying objects, but lighting is very often adapted to a specific place (for example with a specific cable length) or build in, so hard to replace. Long use is key here. Therefor for the Tempo collection we went back to the archetypes of lighting, in search for shapes that are so deeply embedded in our collective subconscious that we hope they will last.
What is your design process? Does it start in the studio, or does inspiration strike you in unexpected ways? And then how does something go from an idea to a design to an actual product?
Inspiration is a very complex process. I think nobody gets inspiration just out of the blue, it is rather finding responses to inner questions – so they first needs to be articulated. Therefore, thinking and deep understanding always comes for us before doing. We start to define a frame by exploring the project from a very very wide angle. This is usually a part that I enjoy deeply – especially when a project is a new discovery and allows to learn about an unknown field. We might become aware about the symbolism of an object for people (for example now I am working on a knife which I feel is a pretty “masculine” object), its characteristic, its expression, to problems, needs or unsolved issues, questioning where and why the existing doesn’t work or might not fit in our world, what could be changed, which might relate to sociological changes in our society; in addition there are also quite specific questions about the material, the production process, and the clients DNA.
After exploring and understanding, we pick several threads where we think that we can contribute something that has a sense and meaning. This leads to the visual translation which is a more intuitive and inner process. Usually several people in the studio come up with possible directions, which we debate together. To decide which one feels right, and the long process of development and fine tuning with its hundreds of moments of decisions we need the set of framework we define first.
Tell us about the new Tempo Collection you’ve designed for Vibia.
Tempo is the result of a challenging idea: different Lighting Archetypes built into one single system.
We analyzed and defined archetypes from different cultures and regions, then concentrated on three, then reduced these to their most essential expression and finally brought them together into a system of fixing elements such as hanging versions and different arms.
The challenge was to make it work as one single system, but maintain the identity of each archetype – finding a common balance within a family of individuals.
Lightness, the interplay of opacity, translucence and transparency, and atmosphere are central themes for the Tempo collection. There are three different glass shapes that offer varied lighting effects – one like a classic bulb under a reflector meant to send light to the floor; one like the classic opaline globe reinterpreted with a soft shape and blurred effect that mixes general with floor oriented light; and another is a reduction of the angular opaline lamps offering a diffuse general light. All of them respond to different expressions and lighting situations, and can be used with diverse pendant and arm solutions.
You’ve been involved in various design projects ranging from tableware, lighting and furniture to plumbing and washbasins…Is there anything you haven’t designed yet that would like to? And why?
The projects we most enjoy are the 360 degree projects from research to product design to its communication; like recently the Adell collection for Arper, or the Mya collection for Burgbad, which was developed to meet the needs for online selling. Both collections have a strong focus on sustainability.
There are many fields in which we would love to do more, but we are specially interested in projects related to healthcare and sustainability–the two areas we have experienced during the COVID crisis to be the next big challenges humanity will face.
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