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Behind the Design: David Trubridge

Pola Suspension by David Trubridge

Behind the Design:
David Trubridge

Designer David Trubridge draws inspiration from our natural surroundings, traditional cultures and even environmental happenings. His luminaires reflect his love of the earth and the need to protect it, with a true passion for environmentally friendly design.

For New Zealand designer David Trubridge, inspiration is in great abundance. His muse is nature—a source that is known for constantly delivering something fresh and new. But Trubridge's designs are careful and intentional, curated into a collection that is organic and ethereal in its aesthetic, and thoughtful and sustainable in its craft. We caught up with David to explore his inspirations and to meet Pola, the latest addition to the Trubridge catalog.

First, we loved visiting you in Milan at Euroluce this year—your new work seemed to be quite a departure from past designs. Is this a new direction?

Last year we were involved in an exciting new project in a New Zealand redwood forest where there is a new walkway suspended among the trees. The owners asked us to create a series of giant lights to hang from the branches for a night walk. It has been a great success. It was made possible largely because of our discovery of a brand-new material, which is an outdoor durable wood fiber board. We are constantly being asked for outdoor lights, so of course we had to use this for our own series of smaller outdoor lights, and these were shown as prototypes in Milan.

Your catalog has grown over the years but not as rapidly as most lighting manufacturers—how do you decide to bring new designs to the market?

I believe in quality not quantity. I can’t bring myself to create a whole lot of new lights for the sake of it. In fact, I have a real problem with this obsession with the new. It degrades what we already have. It is a deliberate consumer construct to get people to buy, where the need to sell is greater than the need to buy. I think we should start savoring and appreciating what we have, rather than expecting designers and producers to constantly titillate us with something new. So much newness can only be inferior, often resorting to gimmickry for the sake of it.

Not all of your lighting designs seem to fit together from an “aesthetic” comparison—is there a common theme in your work?

As a designer, I would be silly to restrict myself to one common aesthetic, as that would only appeal to a limited clientele. We have tried to address our creativity to a variety of aesthetics so that a wider range of people can fit them into different looking spaces. For example, the Ebb lights were designed for spaces that feature limited color palettes, and where the natural color of wood is out of place.

Many fixtures in your catalog will cast brilliant shadows with the correct space positioning and lamping. Is this effect accounted for in your design process or just a great side effect?

Absolutely! Who needs wallpaper?! You can hang a bare light bulb from the ceiling to create functional light at night, but it is a cold, depressing form of light, which is why you see it in prison cells. Shadow patterns generate a warmth and visual texture that makes the space a pleasant and even enriching one to be in.

The material used in the David Trubridge lighting range is predominantly bamboo plywood. Is this an effort to be eco-friendly or a necessity to achieve the desired aesthetic?

I have always worked with wood and remain loyal to it, though of course bamboo is not strictly wood; it is a type of grass. It is the perfect fit for both our environmental concerns and for my natural aesthetic.

Your latest design, Pola, is self-described as a melding of Sola, Snowflake, and Coral—other pendant designs of yours. How did this come to be?

When I came back from my Antarctica trip I designed a globe I called Snowball, based on the Buckminster-Fuller geodesic dome, made up from a mix of hexagons and pentagons. It never went anywhere, but recently we decided that there was more worth investigating with this idea, and it eventually led to Pola. The components are obviously derivations of snowflakes.

How do those four designs relate to each other, or differ?

Coral was the first. It is based on a regular polyhedron of 60 identical faces, assembled in 12 groups of 5. Floral and Sola were both based on the same geometry with variations in the individual shape. Pola is based on quite different geometry (see above).

New Designs

David Trubridge with one of his designs at the 2017 World Wood Day.

You recently participated in World Wood Day. Can you tell us about what you created there and your experience?

I built a very lightweight plywood SUP board. I am a keen surfer/paddler/windsurfer, so it was inevitable that I would apply my design experience of lightweight plywood structures to these boards. The event was an amazing experience with masses of woodworkers of all types assembled from all over the world. We were all put up in the old Queen Mary at Long Beach and worked in the Convention Center, while an equally global mix of musicians played to us.

Who is your favorite designer?

Nature, because we will never ever get close to being so good.

What do you enjoy most about the lighting and furniture industry?

When someone says to me, “I love living with one of your lights. It makes me happy.”

What’s next for David Trubridge?

We need to do a lot more work on the new outdoor range, assimilating feedback from the Milan show and doing testing in the weather. I am really enjoying the paddle boards and would like to take this further. Other plans are secret so you will have to watch this space!