Henningsen, is best known for path-breaking innovations with
interior lighting. He is perhaps the best example of lamp-making
mastery. Trained as an architect at the Danish College of
Technology in Copenhagen, he began working in 1920 as an independent
architect designing houses, factories, and theaters. His self-appointed
mission to find “harmony in lighting” was fueled
by this experience. To his mind, the standard lighting solutions
were unsatisfactory for his buildings so he began experimenting
and creating designs of his own.
1924 Henningsen began working with Louis Poulsen, an electrical
appliances manufacturer, to produce what would become his
most famous work, the “PH lamp.” The next year
this lamp won a gold medal at the Exposition Internationale
des Arts Decoratifs & Industriels Modernes in Paris. The
“PH” lamp was the forerunner of Henningsen’s
multi-shade lamp system that would be developed and elaborated
throughout his career.
original design was based on a strict scientific analysis
of the effects and functions of the lampshade. Henningsen
worked vigorously to resolve or, at least, diminish the problem
of glare. He approached this problem in a number of different
ways. Multiple shades positioned at precise distances from
each other were one approach. Additionally, his lamps were
constructed so that the bulb was not visible and the light
was directed downward so that each ray would be reflected
no more than once. Furthermore, he varied the color on the
underside of each shade element in order to alter the tone
of the light and the level of intensity. He also experimented
with different types of glass as shade materials such as opal.
These extensive efforts had the aim of beautifying “the
home and those who live there” by imitating the warm
glow of the petroleum lamps he grew up with. Poul Henningsen’s
success in accomplishing this goal is evident by the fact
that many of his designs are still in production today including
the popular “PH5” from 1958. Additionally, the
original “PH” and the unmistakable “Artichoke”
lamp are considered classics of Danish design.
addition to shaping the history of modern interior lighting
Henningsen was known for sharp cultural critique which he
published in a magazine he also edited called the Critical
Revue. He was also known as a talented poet and playwright
who scripted several productions for Copenhagen theaters.
Though less known for these accomplishments than for his designs,
Poul Henningsen, was a man of various gifts.