Architects design chandelier for Swarovski Crystal Palace exhibition
April 14, 2009 - 12:00pm

New York architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro chose to deconstruct the classic crystal chandelier for the Swarovski Crystal Palace exhibition that debuted last month during Design Miami. Partner Ricardo Scofidio discusses the humble origins behind his team’s Light Sock installation.

Ricardo Scofidio

Scofidio: When we were asked by Swarovski to design a chandelier, it was totally outside our vocabulary. [My partner] Elizabeth Diller has such strong memories of a chandelier her parents had over the dining table [that] she hated—seriously hated. She wouldn’t bring her friends home for fear that they would see the chandelier. She has never been able to explain why. Anyway, we started thinking about chandeliers, and we went through a number of options, including this idea we call The People’s Chandelier. Just as you would buy a pound  of potatoes and carry them home in your shopping bag, why not have a bag that you could carry crystals in?           

As we packed all these crystals together as a single light source with one little xenon bulb, we discovered that the crystals began refracting off each other. So, you get incredible sparkle of color and uniform brightness, which really surprised us. At that point, we were hooked on it as an idea. Then there was a lot of research and development determining the net: the mesh, the strength of it, how to hang it and what its appearance would be. We knew that we wanted one that could be hung over a dining table. We also liked the idea of one that would hang very close to the floor.           

Now in its sixth year, the Swarovski Crystal Palace design project re-interprets the traditional chandelier, one of history’s most poignant expressions of cut crystal. The 2007 Light Sock installation pays homage to what designer Ricardo Scofidio calls The “People’s Chandelier.”

This isn’t done to be deliberately in opposition to the trend in lighting today. We really just looked at crystal as a material and asked: How can we affect that and make something very beautiful? People have asked us why we didn’t put in a red light or a blue light. Although I’m sure someone will try to do that at some point, we felt that, basically, what is beautiful is that, when you dim the light, it goes from a very bright white to a very warm color like the setting sun.           

Sometimes I think the small projects are even more difficult than large ones, when you try to distill something so that it appears very, very simple and [makes] everyone [who] looks at it say, “Oh, why didn’t I think of that?” We enjoyed [experimenting with] lighting, but there is something nice about doing it and then walking away. In the future, if something hits us, we will push it. But we don’t feel an obligation to keep doing light fixtures.

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