How Rodolfo Dordoni Rebranded Foscarini With a Winning Lamp

In 1990, a smart design helped reinvent the Italian brand.
Text by

Rodolfo Dordoni started working with Italian lighting company Foscarini in 1990. The Milan-based designer creates furniture and products manufactured by leading brands such as Minotti, Kettal, Molteni & C, and Moroso; he also designs private and commercial spaces with his studio, Dordoni Architetti.

Rodolfo Dordoni designed the Buds table lamp, which is being released this year by Foscarini.

In 1990, Dordoni was brought on to help reinvigorate Foscarini. The Italian company, founded in 1981, was a producer of Murano glass. As Dordoni has  said of the brand, "Its home was Murano, but its mentality was not exclusively rooted there." The efforts to rebrand involved "making Foscarini into a 'lighting' company, more than a producer of blown glass," he said.

Sketches of the Lumiere lamp, originally designed by Dordoni for Foscarini in 1990, show the light's signature tripod base. The product helped put the Italian company on the map.

Dordoni designed a lamp that became Foscarini's first commercial success. The Lumiere, which he has described as a "glass hat with a tripod," featured an aluminum base and introduced a new idea for the company—that two separate materials could be brought together in a dynamic way, expanding the company's solely glass-focused approach. "The casting of aluminum was a very contemporary, new idea at the time," he said.

Foscarini reinvented the Lumiere for the brand's 25th anniversary in 2015 with a new design by Dordoni. Dubbed Lumiere 25th, the updated version features a metallic lamp shade made with four overlapping layers of glass. It takes 100 hours of hand labor to produce the shade. 

The 25th anniversary version of Lumiere features a metallic glass shade that still lets light pass through; four layers (paliesco, crystal, white, and metallic coating) make up the piece.

The shade of the Lumiere 25th takes 100 hours to make. 

Following a line of Buds suspension lamps that was also introduced in 1990, this year Foscarini will release a Buds table lamp designed by Dordoni. The piece features a plastic base with a hand-crafted glass shade. Five layers of mouth-blown glass are joined together to form Buds's sculpted form.

There are three versions of the table lamp, each with a slightly different size and profile. A specific color is designated for each—brown, gray, or bamboo green—and white is an option for all three.

A sketch of the Buds table lamp shows how the glass shade attaches to the cylindrical plastic base.

Asked what differentiates the design market today from when he started with Foscarini in 1990, Dordoni mentions the consumer's shorter attention span. Back then, "the things you designed were more extensively thought out," he has said. "Today's consumer has been influenced by other merchandise sectors (i.e. fashion and technology) not to desire 'lasting' things."

With his designs, he tries to counter this short-sightedness. "When a product (like Lumiere) has such a long life in terms of sales, it means it is self-sufficient, a product that wasn't necessarily paying attention to trends, at the moment," he said. "That is precisely what makes it appealing, somehow."

Dordoni's design for Buds is inspired by blossoms, petals, fruit, and other forms found in nature.



Get the Dwell Newsletter

Be the first to see our latest home tours, design news, and more.