Saying Farewell to a Danish Modern Genius
On January 9, the world bid farewell to the remarkable Danish designer Louis Weisdorf. Prolific and versatile, Weisdorf lived a remarkable life. Among lighting lovers, he is best known for his iconic Multi-Lite pendant design. Gifted with an unusual ability for spatial visualization, he was one of the youngest designers ever admitted to Copenhagen’s Royal Design Academy of Fine Arts. His employers and mentors upon graduation included illustrious designers Poul Henningsen and Verner Panton.
He spent a decade working on iconic designs for the celebrated Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen under Simon P. Henningsen, Poul’s son. He opened his own studio in Copenhagen with Ole Panton, Verner’s brother. In a career that spanned more than half a century, Weisdorf worked, at various times, in the fields of lighting, furniture, industrial, interior, and architectural design.
Dude was pretty cool, is what we’re getting at.
A Remarkable Talent
Tivoli Gardens today
Louis Weisdorf’s first work as a lighting designer began in 1963, while working as designing manager of Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park in Copenhagen–one of the oldest and largest amusement parks in the world. His supervisor was chief architect Simon P. Henningsen, son of architect and designer Poul Henningsen, who had himself preceded Simon in the role and had suggested Weisdorf for the position of designing manager.
Konkylie, inspired by the shape and pattern of a conch shell (for which it is named), was an homage to Poul Henningsen’s own revolutionary PH5 luminaire. Like the PH5, its primary concern was shielding the eye from the light source and providing you with a gentler, diffused light.
I have always been interested in creating lights from a single element that could be repeated and built together in various fashions, fitting into each other, turned, stacked, hung in various ways and so on
Moreover, Konkylie set the tone for almost all Weidsorf’s later designs. “I have always been interested in creating lights from a single element that could be repeated and built together in various fashions, fitting into each other, turned, stacked, hung in various ways and so on,” Weisdorf said of his own designs.
Konkylie lights in Tivoli Gardens
The idea of creating a static form from a single element that nonetheless seemed dynamic, altering with the observer’s viewpoint, was a source of fascination for Weisdorf. Indeed, this penchant is readily apparent in the lights he created for Lyfa from the 1960s-70s, such as Konkylie, Facet, Ekko, and Turbo.
But, as you might expect, there is an exception to the rule: Multi-Lite.
With Multi-Lite, Louis Weisdorf chose to explore the dynamic nature of his lights by using two identical solid shells to direct the light from the central shaded lamp upwards, downwards, or asymmetrically in whatever fashion you desire.
Multi-Lite Suspension from Gubi
Unfortunately, declining interest in timeless design objects of quality in favour of cheaper household goods marked the 1970s. More and more, consumers favoured goods that could be attained and disposed of easily, in line with fleeting trends. This, then, resulted in a creeping austerity in much of the design world, most notably the household and hygge-oriented world of Danish Modern design.
Multi-Lite felt this in several ways, most notably being one of very few Weisdorf lights to even make it into production in the ’70s. Then, Multi-Lite saw its production orders cut before the table or floor variants ever saw production.
Eventually, Weisdorf’s designs left production altogether.
A Danish Modern Legacy
The designs of Louis Weisdorf spent years largely unknown beyond collectors’ circles. Konkylie glowed across Tivoli Gardens for decades, until the last ones were replaced only very recently. Weisdorf himself devoted his attention elsewhere.
Then, spurred by Weisdorf’s classic designs gaining popularity in collector’s circles, lighting manufacturer Gubi took interest. Danish Modern was coming back, and Weisdorf’s designs had become iconic in the genre.
Turbo Suspension from Gubi
Thus, in 2013, Gubi proudly rereleased Louis Weisdorf’s Turbo. Contributing to and benefitting from the Danish Modern revival, this then led to Multi-Lite not only getting its own rerelease in 2016, but also the long-overdue releases of the wall and floor variants, as well as a special smaller suspension version.
Selections from Gubi’s Multi-Lite collection
Now available in a wider palette of colour schemes than ever before–including black brass, the newest finish option for the original pendant and its smaller sibling–Multi-Lite is growing in popularity even as we bid farewell to its creator.
Louis Weisdorf’s Multi-Lite suspension in black brass
Louis Weisdorf’s commitment to finding dynamism in simplicity is well-represented by the work he leaves behind. We thank him for sharing his remarkable talents with us, and we thank Gubi for reintroducing the world to this marvellous genius.
Louis Weisdorf (1932-2021)