Denmark 50

Poul Hennignsen
1894 - 1967


Nanna Ditzel
Fritz Henningsen  
Poul Henningsen  
Peter Hvidt  
Arne Jacobsen  
Grete Jalk  
Finn Juhl  
Jacob Kjaer  
Poul Kjaerholm  
Kaare Klint  
Borge Mogensen  
Verner Panton  
Arne Vodder  
Ole Wanscher  
Hans Wegner  

Poul 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.

In 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.

The 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.

In 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.