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06.06.2022 #design

Lee Broom

Lighting the present through the past

“I don’t think you have to be religious to be moved or inspired when you walk into a place of worship”

From postwar architecture to Divine Inspiration, Lee Broom’s latest work is a series of six new lighting collections. Celebrating his company’s 15th anniversary, the British designer presented at Blindarte in Brera during Milano Design Week. The setup takes us on a journey inspired by places of worship, exploring how sacred places, bathed in sunlight, are often evocative of a sense of stillness, reverence and contemplation. Embarking on this solar journey, the designer is referencing brutalism, minimalism, the 1970s, and even gothic and evanescent atmospheres. Every single collection is inspired by a different place of worship.  After discovering the first two rooms, Pantheum and Hail, visitors follow a small staircase to the third room, Altar, an ode to Broom’s exploration into the angular forms of Mid-Century churches and altars. The visit continues with the Vesper collection in the fourth room, inspired by the simple geometric lines of Brutalist sculpture and modernist cathedral lights, and Chant collection. Finally last but not least, and very dear to the designer’s heart, is Requiem room, an ethereal series of limited-edition pieces sculpted by Broom’s own hand in his London factory.

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What can you tell me about your latest collection presented during Milano Design Week?

My series of six new lighting collections is inspired by places of worship: I am exploring how light is often linked to hallowed places, evoking a sense of stillness, reverence, and contemplation. Dating back from antiquity to present day, but specifically looking at Brutalist architecture, I am exploring places of worship throughout the ages and the monumental design language associated with religious architecture, interiors, and artifacts. When initially designing this collection which marks my brand’s 15th anniversary, I decided to look back at some of the things that inspired me to be a designer in the first place. I started looking at a period of architecture that I love and grew up with: the Brutalist architecture. Delving deeper, my attention became engaged with brutalist places of worship. This led me on a fascinating journey to researching cathedrals, temples, and churches from antiquity to mid-century, to the present day. There are pieces in this collection inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, others inspired by the Coventry Cathedral in the UK. I wanted to create a lighting design collection that invoked that same sense of awe and mysticism as those buildings and their interiors. This is not a religious collection, but a reflection on the impact religious architecture, interiors and artifacts have had on the psyche as well as the history of art and architecture. I don’t think you have to be religious to be moved or inspired when you walk into a place of worship.

What are the highlights of this new lighting collection?

Probably the ‘Requiem’ series, which is the last collection that you see at the end of the experiential journey. In 2022 we are celebrating our 15th anniversary and when that happens, you start looking back at your work. I remember, in the very beginning, we used to do a lot more of limited edition pieces and I was more hands on. As the company gets bigger, the production processes get more complex. That’s why I wanted to go back to the roots, and create every piece of a collection myself, with my own hands. This specific collection takes inspiration from the marble drapery on ancient statues and sepulchral sculptures. Each piece appears weightless and fluid but is solid in form, made by hand-draping fabrics in plaster through and around illuminated glass. It was so nice for me to get back to the factory and get my hands dirty!

You’ve worked with several fashion brands including Christian Louboutin, Mulberry, Bergdorf Goodman. How do your collaborations begin?

They simply arrive, I don’t really seek out collaborations, because we are really focused on our own work and it takes a lot of time. But I do love joining forces with other brands and I enjoy the process of working with another company, because I put my mind in a different direction from what I normally do.

Has Brexit affected your business?

Yes, it has. But we are putting in a lot of different measures and activities to be able to get around that and run the company as effectively as we can. But it’s a challenge for businesses to find the time to do this. Even getting products from the UK to Milan for Design Week was super challenging.

A delicate matter these days is sustainability in the fabrications of a new product. How do you deal with it?

Actually, I tackle it directly at the design stage. If you do that, you guarantee more sustainable products. In the very beginning of a product design stage, when we think about materials and manufacturing methods, we talk about sustainability. It means that you can exclude things you know are not sustainable.

What does Fuorisalone mean to you?

It’s a super important event for us. It’s a global design event and there is no other show like it. I am very glad to be back here after 4 years. It’s been a long time.

What do you expect this season?

I don’t really have any expectations right now, we have just been so focused on getting everything done. We have been working on the collection for two years, it’s been a race to the finish. At the moment, I think we are just processing what happens rather than what is going to happen. But I do hope, above all, that people will really enjoy our presentation and enjoy this experience.

 

       Interview : Flavio Marcelli

        Photos : Ludovica Arcero  

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