Object Matters New light on an old classic.

Object Matters New light on an old classic.

Issue 50

, Starters

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  • Words John Ovans

A hundred years ago, it was not uncommon to see accountants, journalists and those in other eye-straining occupations wearing green translucent visors to temper the harsh glare of early electric light bulbs. The Emeralite desk lamp, designed in 1909 by American engineer Harrison D. McFaddin, followed the same principles. Its green glass shade was thought to not only reduce eye fatigue and improve productivity, but to have a calming effect on employees. It was so popular with financial institutions that it came to be known as the “banker’s lamp.”

In part thanks to its ubiquity in movies—where it is used as a signifier of a certain established and learned authority—the banker’s lamp has come to be a design icon. Now it is being reimagined by London-based designer John Tree for the Danish design brand HAY.

Tree’s Apex series simplifies the form of the shade and introduces free-standing and clamp-on models. The folded steel shade creates a focused pool of light that echoes the purposeful intimacy of the banker’s lamp. It is certainly unlikely to need the same revisions as its precursor, later versions of which were available with clocks, pen holders and even cigar ashtrays—anything to ensure auditors and editors stayed glued to their desks.


This post was produced in partnership with HAY.

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