The Light Fantastic: Johanna Grawunder

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By Joanne Furio / Published by Dwell
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.

Grawunder’s high-concept lighting explores all the possibilities technology, unconventional materials, and sculptural forms have to offer. Her work at once recalls the fluorescent light installations of Dan Flavin, the minimalism of Donald Judd and Richard Serra, and the colorful furnishings of her mentor, the Italian architect Ettore Sottsass, with whom the California native, herself an architect, worked for 16 years.

The Light Fantastic: Johanna Grawunder - Photo 1 of 11 - 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.

Though her portfolio includes vases for B&B Italia, glass for Mikasa, and a pen for Acme, Grawunder’s become renowned for adding light to mirrors, tables, sofas—even beds. Such experimentalism has made her a sought-after designer whose work turns on some of the best high-concept design companies in the world, like FLOS, Boffi, and Glas Italia.

The Light Fantastic: Johanna Grawunder - Photo 2 of 11 - 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.