For the event 3 Days of Danish Design in late May, Louis Poulsen’s showroom on Gammel Strand in Copenhagen was transformed into ‘The Louis Poulsen Makery’ – a mini factory and café hybrid where craftspeople showcased the assembly process for some of Poul Henningsen’s best-known lamps. The special presentation was a celebration of the 60th anniversary of three of those lamps: the PH Artichoke, PH 5 and PH 5 Mini, which have been released in special editions to mark the occasion. Paul McGillick travelled there for HabitusLiving and immersed himself in the oh-so satisfying culture of Danish design.
On a beautifully sunny Monday morning I arrived in Copenhagen – surely the design capital of the world. With most of the shops closed, I decided that the clever Danes had designed the four-day week.
It was just a public holiday. But from the moment you get off the plane, you know that this is a place that invests a lot in the quality of life. Poul Kjærholm spent a career designing the perfect chair. And Poul Henningsen spent a lifetime designing the perfect light.
He worked with manufacturer Louis Poulsen, design royalty in Denmark. And fittingly for royalty, their showroom is just across the canal from the Christiansborg Palace. In what I presume was once a typical narrow-fronted five-storey terrace house, the showroom is discreet from the outside. Inside, though, it is magical – an example of the newest thinking on showroom design.
No longer a shop, the new showroom offers an experience. The products present as a family in a space designed to elicit their inherent values. From the street, a neat window arrangement of PH5 lights invite us in where a grand staircase then leads us up to the main display floor, enticed by a glowing clutch of Artichoke pendants reflected in the perimeters of the glazed void.
In fact, Louis Poulsen is on the edge of one of Copenhagen’s main shopping zones, which includes most of the leading brands – an intriguing network of designer shops and design studios. Repeatedly I encounter products and displays designed with an engaging elegance.
This is a design tradition so beautifully summed up by Henningsen’s lights: useful, beautiful and functional. It is a tradition of designing things high in aesthetic value, but which work at the everyday level.
And it is a tradition that constantly reinvents itself – highlighted by new versions of Henningsen’s PH 5 and PH Artichoke lights, along with a new version of the PH 5, the Mini. Now in brushed, polished copper the five-tiered PH 5 and 72-leaved PH Artichoke lights celebrate 60 years of illuminating, creating and animating space – sculpting in light.