A Q&A with Karim Rashid
Born in Cairo, raised in Canada and residing in New York, Karim Rashid has been fundamental in creating the current global design vocabulary. One of the most prolific designers of his generation, he has more than 3,000 designs in production, has won over 300 awards and has worked in over 40 countries. Rashid still managed to find some time to talk to us about his design process and his first collection for AXO Light, the Nafir Pendant—a unique design that elegantly exemplifies Rashid's unbridled creative energy.
What was your source of inspiration for Nafir? Pure imagination or an association of ideas?
Nafir is pure imagination. My original sketches started by thinking about light as a compliment to sound. For 20 years now, I have been fascinated by flat surfaces being pulled and morphed, creating a new fluid form. Originally, I imagined a plane that was being pulled upward, by several points, to its electrical contact on the ceiling. By doing this manipulation to the surface, Nafir began to look like trumpets, organic/fluid forms. I wanted to make a fixture that was part sculpture, one that looked beautiful even with the lights turned off, yet provided perfect functional LED light. I also wanted to create a family of fixtures whose trumpet likes forms could be organically grouped together to create a fantastic landscape of light and shape.
What do you think the applications of Nafir would be?
An interesting feature of Nafir is that from a plan-view the geometry is coincident to one another, so they naturally fit together allowing for a infinite number of compositions when grouped. This flexibility will make it an excellent fixture for public/semi-public spaces like hotels and restaurants but also for residential use. I imagine a restaurant with a single long table running its length, above is a large configuration of many Nafir lights all linked up ... it would look amazing. Each user will experience Nafir in a truly unique way.
Lots of people appreciated this collection at the Frankfurt fair and we would like to know if you think we could extend the family to table lights, wall lights, etc.
It's always my feeling that a successful product can be extended into a larger family. Part of my design process is, from early on, to think about how the original idea can be applied throughout a full collection. I already have the sketches of the floor, table and wall versions of Nafir. The key is to maintain the fluidity of the forms and connection to the original sketches.
When you start working on a lighting fixture, are you also thinking about its function or is your source of inspiration simply an idea or a shape?
Lighting technology, LED and OLED, has allowed designers to expand their thoughts on what the form of a light fixture can be. We are no longer under the constraints of the halogen bulb, thus light fixtures today (and in the future) can take on new forms, not at all reminiscent of the past. This is obviously exciting for me because I get to work purely from inspirational gesture and set the pace for how the future will appear.
What is, in your opinion, the ideal light for future homes? What scenarios do you have in mind?
Lighting a home is different from a public space, it's a lot more intimate, more personal. Technology is starting to allow users a greater role in how their lighting at home functions. We are already seeing residential lighting becoming adaptable and applied more seamless into the architecture. These fixtures can react to the users by automatically turning on/off and by creating a specific mood by changing hue. Ultimately, I would like to create a full lighting system that is completely organic and reacts to the movements and emotions of the user. What forms will these advanced systems take on? How will they physically speak to these new technologies and their relation to the users? These are the questions I cannot wait to offer solutions to.
Did you ever happen to think about the perfect hotel light? What would it look like in a hall or in the rooms?
I travel a good part of the year, so I end up spending a lot of time in hotels. I am constantly thinking about these spaces and how I would improve or change this landscape. Surprisingly, many hotels seem to think of lighting as a secondary need and thus the lighting is inadequate. I often find it most difficult when shaving or when my wife is applying her make-up because the bathroom lighting is sparse and unconsidered.
I think a perfect light is adaptable to all the different types of hotel spaces, whether it's a narrow hallway or an open lobby. A good light allows the architect/designer to fill and enhance the space. Nafir is a great example of this. The forms link up to create a dynamic landscape that is always unique, creating a very expressive/theatrical light system without sacrificing function.
Try and describe to us how you physically and metaphysically perceive light and if this perception is a plus when you offer a new fixture?
Light is such a beautiful immaterial phenomena. It creates mood, shifts our sensibilities, our mental state and our well-being. At the same time the light fixture itself can be poetic and speak about so much more than light itself. It can be a symbolic extension of the function or it can be purely sculptural form. Possibly more than any home element, lighting technologically has advanced by leaps and bounds in the last decade. The forms no longer have to speak 'light' but can be a pure expression of the designer, all the while, the actual light is more efficient and vastly more flexible.
In order to design a nice lamp rather than a piece of furniture, what do you think a designer needs? What is the extra necessary gift?
Lighting has two main distinctions from furniture: one is the technology it houses and the other is the interaction it shares with the user, a light often being more passive and less tactile. Because the user's interaction with the fixture itself is often just flipping a switch, obviously it is important to make it functional, but also it needs to have an attractive/distinctive form that speaks to the user even while the lights are off (which is the majority of the time). Nafir is an example of a light that I wanted to appear just as interesting with the lights off as when they are on. Nafir is a functional sculpture. It feels dynamic, the fluid form becomes an expression of light itself.