History of a brand: Louis Poulsen

An illuminating look at the legendary Danish lighting company that boasts creations by some of the most iconic architects and designers of our time

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Though its history dates back to 1874, when it was founded as a wine importer by Ludvig R Poulsen, one could argue that Louis Poulsen’s true story as one of the world’s most influential lighting companies began in 1924. That year, an amateur Danish architect named Poul Henningsen approached Louis Poulsen & Co – by then known as a purveyor of electrical goods – with an idea for a light he wanted to present at the Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes.

The design came with a set of three shades, which concealed the lightbulb and gave off direct and indirect light that was warm and flattering. The concept won the Paris Exposition 1925 gold medal, and the very next year, together with Louis Poulsen, Henningsen was tasked with lighting the Forum Building in Copenhagen, where the first ‘PH’ pendant lights were debuted to much critical success. That same year, Louis Poulsen published its first lighting catalogue.

Poul Henningsen, Danish architect
Poul Henningsen

By 1958, Henningsen had produced two more breakthrough designs: the 72-leaved ‘PH Artichoke’ pendant for Copenhagen’s Langelinie Pavillonen restaurant and the ‘PH 5’, which included an additional shade for uplighting. Both Henningsen and Louis Poulsen had become household names, so much so that when architect Arne Jacobsen was tasked with designing the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen in 1960, he chose the company to manufacture his designs for the ‘AJ’ table, wall and floor lamps and the ‘AJ Royal’ pendant, all intrinsic parts of his ‘Gesamtwerk’ philosophy, which saw him design not only the hotel, but every detail of its interiors. The list of illustrious names Louis Poulsen has worked with since is a who’s-who of the world’s design scene: Verner Panton, Foster+Partners, Gam Fratesi, Clara Von Zweigbergk, Oki Sato of Nendo and many, many more.

'PH Artichoke' pendant
'PH Artichoke'

In 2011, Louis Poulsen became the first lighting manufacturer to win the American Institute of Architects award for ‘Collaborative Achievement’ – and for good reason. The brand constantly updates its designs: whether it’s making the ‘AJ’ wall lights using LEDs for outdoor use, or releasing six new, cheerful colours for the ‘PH 5’ on its 60th anniversary this year.And this doesn’t just apply to the classics: Swedish designer Clara Von Zweigbergk’s bright ‘Cirque’ pendant lights from 2016 were recently re-released in a palette of greys. Perhaps Henningsen’s greatest legacy to Louis Poulsen was the never-ending quest for lighting perfection. louispoulsen.com

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration July 2018

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