Design Week Feature: Maurizio Lai, Designing With Light Featured

Maurizio Lai designs vibrant light environments that foster sensorial experimentations.

by Dr. Tiziano Aglieri Rinella 17 April 2018

Amongst the most distinguished designers in the field of lighting design, Maurizio Lai (b. 1965) has recently achieved important milestones as the recipient of international awards. Architect and designer, Lai started his career as a set designer with extensive experience in building sets for television programmes. In 2016, he was the recipient of the Restaurant&Bar Design Award in London for the best lighting design at the TAIYO restaurant in Milan, and he was then appointed as a juror for the organisation’s following edition in 2017.

His lighting installations arise from a personal interpretation of the rapport between light and architecture. Designing a space, usually considered as a static entity, Lai inserts dynamic elements. In this manner, he tries to nullify the end of the space itself, reconsidering it by means of a composition of lights or glossy materials where the space reflects itself and somehow continues or becomes fragmented.

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In his projects, we can recognise some intervention typologies: architectural elements such as walls, columns, perimeters and gates are treated in a very detailed way, as he intentionally seeks engineer-able and sometimes modular solutions. Other installations are instead unique works, outcomes of a freer expression with a high level of handcrafted quality, never the same, but always new.

His interiors’ surfaces are cladded with lighting elements, where matter plays with light in a propagation of obsessive orthogonal lines, creating complex lighting structures with a strong emotional impact.

For many years, Lai has personally produced his settings in-house, in his own laboratory of scenography, with great attention to design details. “Personally, I like to design and to make my creations. Mine is a handcrafting process that develops according to architectural principles, for the construction of a sensorial experience. That’s why I wouldn’t define myself just a lighting designer. Ceiling installations, lighting walls, infinity mirrors but also most of the individual lamps are conceived and custom-made for each project. However, I like also to pick some iconic piece to give more emphasis to an environment. For instance, I integrate some lamps by Davide Groppi or Artemide, which I widely used in my projects.”

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Related: Let There Be (Intelligent) Light

Amongst the lighting companies that are distinguished for their innovation and experimentation, Maurizio Lai prefers avant-garde proposals and environmental installations. Flos’s new collection, for instance, alongside its representation of well-established designers, also provides a platform for emerging designers to express lighting concepts through contemporary furniture. Equally of interest are Viabizzuno’s proposals, such as the new N55 system, which allows designers to use LED lights in an innovative way, with five million possible combinations and glass materials designed by great masters of architecture including Peter Zumthor, David Chipperfield and Kengo Kuma.

Lai claims to be an admirer of Ingo Maurer’s work, a maestro researching surrealistic lighting solutions where the artistic component is fundamental. Whether it is a single lighting object or conceptual environmental installation, Maurer’s inventions are conceived to not only deliver light, but are born to offer the viewer multiple combination possibilities so that they become a part of the spectacular seduction.

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Lai’s Suggestions for Design Week

Maurizio Lai recommends visiting the stands of Flos, Vibia, Artemide and, particularly, Davide Groppi, a high-quality craft company that doesn’t just sells objects, but which combines a sensitive design in their product placement. This union is the secret of their success.

Salone del Mobile runs from 17 to 22 April 2018 and Rho Fieramilano showground. Trade Visitors Only: 17-20 April, General Public: 21-22 April.

For more on Maurizio Lai, you can visit his website here.

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