The Light Fantastic: Johanna Grawunder

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July 27, 2012

To Johanna Grawunder, a turned-off chandelier is “one of the saddest things in the world.” Granted, she is an avant-garde lighting designer; a darkened fixture is a missed opportunity.

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  Designer and architect Johanna Grawunder is based in San Francisco and Milan, Italy.
    Designer and architect Johanna Grawunder is based in San Francisco and Milan, Italy.
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  Limelight, for Carpenter’s Workshop Gallery, 2012

This modular wall light consists of two modules, each able to pivot right or left, controlling how much light is emitted. The light itself is color-changing LEDs that are operated by a remote. The inspiration for the bead-blast finish: the back of Grawunder’s iPad.
    Limelight, for Carpenter’s Workshop Gallery, 2012 This modular wall light consists of two modules, each able to pivot right or left, controlling how much light is emitted. The light itself is color-changing LEDs that are operated by a remote. The inspiration for the bead-blast finish: the back of Grawunder’s iPad.
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  h3>Platform, for Carpenter’s Workshop Gallery, 2012
Reminiscent of volcanic cracks that reveal a lava flow, this low-slung coffee table of blackened steel emits a green glow from behind its sliced-up edges. Grawunder saw the slight deviation as a way to “mangle a little bit this perfect coffee table form.”
    h3>Platform, for Carpenter’s Workshop Gallery, 2012 Reminiscent of volcanic cracks that reveal a lava flow, this low-slung coffee table of blackened steel emits a green glow from behind its sliced-up edges. Grawunder saw the slight deviation as a way to “mangle a little bit this perfect coffee table form.”
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  Boxy, for Glas Italia, 2011
Glas Italia “has this amazing possibility to make a mirror out of any color of glass,” says Grawunder. Using that material as a starting point, Grawunder turned the mirrors into boxes and then sanded off their silver backing at the corners, allowing light to emanate from the colored glass. She envisions these “hybrid objects”—a combination of light-table-storage—to be used as mini bars or bedside tables that hold books.
    Boxy, for Glas Italia, 2011 Glas Italia “has this amazing possibility to make a mirror out of any color of glass,” says Grawunder. Using that material as a starting point, Grawunder turned the mirrors into boxes and then sanded off their silver backing at the corners, allowing light to emanate from the colored glass. She envisions these “hybrid objects”—a combination of light-table-storage—to be used as mini bars or bedside tables that hold books.
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  Color on Color Mirror, for Glas Italia, 2010
In this three-part collection, Grawunder layers color “like a painter would do,” including Rothko-esque “black-out parts, which is what the mirror does.” The mirror, at center, is the only part of the fixture that’s not colored. “They wouldn’t let me put light in this,” Grawunder says, which, ultimately was a good idea. “The color of the glass itself is so luminous, it almost looks backlit.”
    Color on Color Mirror, for Glas Italia, 2010 In this three-part collection, Grawunder layers color “like a painter would do,” including Rothko-esque “black-out parts, which is what the mirror does.” The mirror, at center, is the only part of the fixture that’s not colored. “They wouldn’t let me put light in this,” Grawunder says, which, ultimately was a good idea. “The color of the glass itself is so luminous, it almost looks backlit.”
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  Circle Light, Private Collection, 2011
For a commission for the Parisian jewelry designer Lorenz Baumer, Grawunder was inspired by one of the rings she had seen on his website. Concentric stainless steel rings combine with colored plexiglass and LED lights that change color to create one of Grawunder’s more decorative pieces.
    Circle Light, Private Collection, 2011 For a commission for the Parisian jewelry designer Lorenz Baumer, Grawunder was inspired by one of the rings she had seen on his website. Concentric stainless steel rings combine with colored plexiglass and LED lights that change color to create one of Grawunder’s more decorative pieces.
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  Slash, Private Collection, 2011
This piece for Baumer was created for an entry foyer. A more architectural fixture made mostly of polished stainless steel, it needed to incorporate movable lights to spotlight works of art. Grawunder suspended track lights, a typical form of spotlighting, from the main color field, making them more of a decorative than a purely functional element.
    Slash, Private Collection, 2011 This piece for Baumer was created for an entry foyer. A more architectural fixture made mostly of polished stainless steel, it needed to incorporate movable lights to spotlight works of art. Grawunder suspended track lights, a typical form of spotlighting, from the main color field, making them more of a decorative than a purely functional element.
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  Singapore Free Port, Exterior, 2010
Grawunder worked closely with Swiss architects Benedicte Montant and Carmelo Stendardo to light this storage facility, designed as the “ultimate safe” for high-value art and collectibles. On the exterior, Grawunder used very low light green LEDs to give a bioluminescent feeling to the wall of plants behind it. In the daytime, the holes where the light comes from reflect the sky. Containing many kilometers of lights, this is Grawunder’s largest installation ever “and probably will be for a long time,” she quips.
    Singapore Free Port, Exterior, 2010 Grawunder worked closely with Swiss architects Benedicte Montant and Carmelo Stendardo to light this storage facility, designed as the “ultimate safe” for high-value art and collectibles. On the exterior, Grawunder used very low light green LEDs to give a bioluminescent feeling to the wall of plants behind it. In the daytime, the holes where the light comes from reflect the sky. Containing many kilometers of lights, this is Grawunder’s largest installation ever “and probably will be for a long time,” she quips.
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  Singapore Free Port, Lobby, 2010 
These hanging lights were designed to resemble mirror walls hanging in the lobby space. “I wanted the mirror effect to reflect the lobby windows and repeat the pattern,” Grawunder explains. A mirror coating was also applied to the lobby windows, so in the day “there is a lot of reflection up there.” At night, the "walls" glow up and down, with color changing LEDs giving a three-dimensional ceiling effect.
    Singapore Free Port, Lobby, 2010 These hanging lights were designed to resemble mirror walls hanging in the lobby space. “I wanted the mirror effect to reflect the lobby windows and repeat the pattern,” Grawunder explains. A mirror coating was also applied to the lobby windows, so in the day “there is a lot of reflection up there.” At night, the "walls" glow up and down, with color changing LEDs giving a three-dimensional ceiling effect.
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  Giolight, for Gallery Roberto Giustini & Partners, 2007
Grawunder’s bestseller—and one of her most iconic pieces—is included in the permanent collections the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Produced for a Rome gallery in two different sizes, the lights are highly coveted by collectors. Six of the larger, hanging versions were created for $25,000 each and were sold out in a week. A week later, one sold at an auction for $75,000.
    Giolight, for Gallery Roberto Giustini & Partners, 2007 Grawunder’s bestseller—and one of her most iconic pieces—is included in the permanent collections the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Produced for a Rome gallery in two different sizes, the lights are highly coveted by collectors. Six of the larger, hanging versions were created for $25,000 each and were sold out in a week. A week later, one sold at an auction for $75,000.
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  Wan for FLOS, 2006
Wan is the Japanese word for “bowl,” Grawunder’s inspiration for these hanging “bowls of light” that continue to be produced, as both suspension and hanging lights in various finishes.
    Wan for FLOS, 2006 Wan is the Japanese word for “bowl,” Grawunder’s inspiration for these hanging “bowls of light” that continue to be produced, as both suspension and hanging lights in various finishes.

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