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Anniversary of a Legend - 125 Years of Poul Henningsen

To mark the 60th anniversary of the PH lamps Louis Poulsen have launched a particularly elegant copper version of the PH 5 ceiling lamp


Designer Poul Henningsen

Poul Henningsen

The designer Poul Henningsen was born in 1894 as the son of the famous Danish actress Agnes Henningsen. From 1911 to 1914 he studied at the Technical School Frederiksberg and from 1914 to 1917 at the Technical College in Copenhagen. Soon after he began developing traditional yet functionalist architecture, with a focus on lighting design from the beginning. In addition, he also worked as a journalist, cultural critic and writer, but it was his work as a lighting designer that made him world famous. For a short while during the Second World War Poul Henningsen was the chief architect at Tivoli Gardens; but like many others he saw himself forced to leave before the German occupation, emigrating to Sweden where he became an important part of the resident Danish artist community. Poul Henningsen's contributions to the art of correct lighting and its underlying science made him famous far beyond Scandinavia.

Poul Henningsen & Louis Poulsen

Poul Henningsen's cooperation with the Danish lighting manufacturer Louis Poulsen began back in 1925, and was to last a lifetime. Even after his death in 1967 the manufacturer continued to produce the Henningsen's designs in the sense of the designer and occasionally to supplement special editions. However, not only as a designer, but also as the first publisher of Louis Poulsens company magazine "NYT" Poul Henningsen brought himself in the home of Louis Poulsen. He was originally emplyoed by Sophus Kaastrup-Olsen, then CEO of Louis Poulsen, after he lost his job at a Danish newspaper because of his supposedly too radical views. His pioneering work in light theory in the context of light structures, shadows, reflection and light reproduction remains to this day a cornerstone of the corporate philosophy of Louis Poulsen, a philosophy which Poul Henningsen has so strongly influenced. In 2019 Poul Henningsen would have become 125 - reason enough for a few new designs of his lamps PH Artichoke, PH 5, and PH 5 Mini, which bring the ingenuity of Henningsen with dazzling copper and brass into the here and now.

Poul Henningsen surrounded by his lights


The idea of ​​glare-free light

It is 60 years since one of the most famous and popular Scandinavian lights was born. The designer Poul Henningsen completed one of his most legendary lamps in 1958, the innovative PH 5 pendant lamp. For generations, the PH 5 has been providing glare-free illumination to countless households. And that far beyond Henningsen's native Denmark. Poul Henningsen's idea was as simple as it was innovative: he wanted to create an electric light with 100 % glare-free light. Since the 1920s, the designer has developed his own lighting philosophy and a series of lamps, some of which are still known worldwide. One of his first models was created in 1924 in collaboration with the manufacturer Louis Poulsen for the World's Fair in Paris. He thus revolutionized previously understandings of lighting and since then designed lamps in which he used the screen to shield the light and direct it exactly where it was actually needed - and without blinding unnecessarily.

Designer Poul Henningsen revolutionised the idea of lighting design

Poul Henningsens innovative three-shade system

Nearly every designer sets themselves the goal of realising objects which are beautiful to look at. But for Poul Henningsen not only the look was in the foreground; for him it was much more important create a friendly, functional light. With his numerous lighting designs the Dane came closer to this goal step by step. A milestone was his famous three-shade system, which was designed in 1926 so that you could look from any angle directly on the filament of the lamp. Poul Henningsen, often abbreviated as PH, approached his idea scientifically and his research was aided by the new crystal clear bulbs which made it possible to calculate the light rays and adjust the screens accordingly.


PH 5 lamps in Hues of Rose


The PH 3/2 was designed in 1929

The PH 5 Brass in honour of Poul Henningsen's 125th birthday


Louis Poulsen PH 5 Classic White


New lighting technologies bring new challenges

In the 1950s, a new challenge for the designer emerged: new light bulbs with frosted glass came on the market and replaced the old, transparent bulbs. This meant that the light no longer radiated from a single point of the lamp, but diffused from the entire surface. Thus, the calculation of the light beam direction became more difficult and a rethinking was required. After arguing unsuccessfully for the old light bulbs, PH changed his mind and began to develop a new light that finally hit the market in 1958: The PH 5. With its five visible shades, Poul Henningsen had further developed his three-shade lamp and created a type of lamp that combined the downward light with an upper shade, illuminating the entire room glare-free and with great atmosphe. The functionalist approach of the PH lamp had an enormous influence on the entire Danish design, from architecture to fashion. The will to design good and simple designs at affordable prices is still inherent in Danish design philosophy.

The PH 5 in classic chite provides harmonious and glare-free light


PH special editions in the course of time

Over the decades, lighting manufacturer Louis Poulsen has been constantly launching new, contemporary colours and special editions of the PH lamps, constantly adding new versions with a contemporary touch to the innovative design, yet always in the spirit of Henningsen's design philosophy. There have been, for example, limited copper and amber versions of the PH 3.5-3, which dates back to 1929, or the so-called Contemporary Editions of the PH 5, in which Louis Poulsen brought a contemporary colour scheme to the design classic. In 2017, seven new harmonic shades and the slightly smaller PH 5 Mini were introduced to the market, further expanding the wide range of PH lamps. For the 60th anniversary of Louis Poulsen's classic, the PH 5 and the PH 5 Mini were released in a particularly noble copper version a version that guaranteed to make the hearts of lovers of Poul Henningsen designs beat faster.


Limited Amber Version of the PH 3.5-3


Limited Copper PH 3.5-3 ceiling light


Black PH 5 Contemporary Edition

Copper Edition of the PH 5


Two of the PH 5 Contemporary Editions


Copper Special Edition of the PH 3.5-2.5 Table Lamp


Breathtakingly unique: The PH Artichoke

Poul Henningsen's 1958 PH Artichoke revolutionised light design

Another legendary, slightly more pompous PH lamp is Poul Henningsen's PH Artichoke, also known as the Pine Cone. Whether the lamp is more reminiscent of an artichoke or a pine cone is up to each viewer, but one thing is clear: the extravagant lamp is an eye-catcher, whether in domestic spaces or contract projects. With the distinct multi-layered shade of his PH Artichoke designer Poul Henningsen once again reached a new level of lighting architecture. The multi-unit lampshade of the Louis Poulsen lamp, as with the PH 5, creates 100 % glare-free light - but in a somewhat more complex way. The copper or stainless steel blades of the classic lamp are arranged in even rows, thus ensuring not only symmetrical, diffused-warm light but make the PH Artichoke an extraordinary, sculptural design object that conjures up a touch of luxury in every room.

Also called Pine Cone, the PH Artichoke by Louis Poulsen remains as impressive in the contemporary home as it always has


Production of PH lamps

The blanks of the PH 5 shade segments are made of drawn aluminium and then finely honed and powder coated with great care. The outer sides of the PH 5 lamps are then painted by hand, while the screens of the PH Snowball are wet-painted in white. The no less than 72 leaves of the artichoke, in contrast, consist of stamped copper, laser-cut stainless steel or wet-painted steel, depending on the model. A selection of high-quality and durable materials, the dedicated manual work of long-term trained experts and the strictest control of each production step ensure the outstanding quality and durability of all PH lamps.


Patient, skilled production of the PH Snowball

Completion of a PH Artichoke



More about 'Poul Henningsen' in our blog

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(smow) blog Design Calendar: September 9th 1894 – Happy Birthday Poul Henningsen!

...For a man who is universally lauded as one of the most important Danish designers of the 20th century, there is an inexplicable scarcity of reliable, independent information on Poul Henningsen... Library shelves around the globe however buckle under the weight of Danish language works by and about Poul Henningsen: for while outwith Denmark Henningsen is popularly known for a lamp named after an unpopular vegetable, in his native Denmark he has an altogether different status...

(smow) blog Design Calendar: April 28th 1925 – L'Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes opens in Paris

...It must however also be noted that in addition to the absentees the 1925 exposition did represent an important milestone for several soon-to-be stars of their branches, including Poul Henningsen who was awarded a Gold Medal for what was to become the first in the now legendary PH lamp series,6 the then student Arne Jacobsen who was awarded a Silver Medal for a chair project,7 while a fresh faced Gio Ponti was awarded a coveted Grand Prix for a collection of objects for the Florentine porcelain manufacturer Richard Ginori... Mark Mussari, Poul Henningsen - Cubism and the Conscience of Modernism, Scandinavian Studies, Vol...

Passagen Cologne 2014: Alle Metalle / All Metal

...Featuring a mix of furniture, lighting, accessories and decorative objects Alle Metalle / All Metal presents not only a nice overview of the myriad ways metal has been used in 20th century design, but also provides an insight into how metal obviously continues to inspire and drive the creative process: Poul Henningsen's Artichoke Lamp for Louis Poulsen, Sebastian Herkner's Bell Side Table and Bell Coffee Table for ClassiCon, Kai Linke's Cosmo lamp, Tom Dixon's Etch Lamp shade, Robert Dudley's Bestlight through Gubi, CM05 HABIBI by Philipp Mainzer for e15...

Vitra Design Museum: Lightopia

...Rietveld and Wilhelm Wagenfeld before moving over, almost, all the famous classics of the genre, including, George Carwardine’s 1932 Anglepoise, Tizio by Richard Sapper, Artichoke by Poul Henningsen and various works by Verner Panton before reaching 85 Lamps by Rody Graumans through droog...


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