LEDs are stealing the spotlight thanks to Dutch design studio Vantot
Esther Jongsma and Sam van Gurp’s nature-inspired lamps are low-voltage and high-style.
Following in the footsteps of some of history’s most iconic design duos, Esther Jongsma and Sam van Gurp met whilst studying at University—Netherlands’ prestigious Design Academy Eindhoven to be precise. But they didn’t form their partnership right away. Following their graduation, Jongsma and van Gurp spent a few years working separately before merging to form Vantot in 2015.
In the years since then, the duo—who are partners in life as well as in design—has made a name for themselves creating celestial and nature-inspired designs that celebrate LED technology. No longer up-and-coming talents, they have an extensive portfolio of interesting designs, which they develop from their 3,200-square-foot studio in Sectie-C, a former factory site in the Tongelre district of Eindhoven where we were introduced to their work during Dutch Design Week.
Vantot takes a different approach to traditional lighting designers by focusing on innovative, low voltage objects that step away from the conventional concept of a lamp and a power cord. Instead, they design objects that are fully conductive while safe to touch. It’s a vision that has informed their practice since the beginning.
For their first collaboration, the design duo was inspired by the sun as a constant source of light, which is only dimmed or blocked by movements in the solar system. Called Exploded View, they developed the design whilst studying together. It consists of a lamp whose LED module functions like a pendant that can be moved in and out of its shade using a pull cord. As it goes in and out it casts different lighting effects in the surrounding space.
Meanwhile, collections like the V-V-V Series and the O-O-O series feature modular curtains of ornate lighting elements that appear like UFOs. The V-V-V series is Art Deco in style while the O-O-O series uses disc-shaped hoods to reflect light. Both can either be set against a wall or used to divide spaces.
Unlike the usual electrical devices and their sheathed cables, the VVV module is a fully conductive low-voltage element as in all of the studio’s designs. The result is a stainless-steel lattice that functions as one big electrical circuit. Each element is composed of LEDs that have been sandblasted to soften the emitted light and clipped directly onto the wires.
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Vantot has a fleet of major clients including Twitter, Crown Hotels and Marriott. One of their earliest was Microsoft, which featured the Exploded View inside its Seattle headquarters. For Eindhoven’s Victoria Park, they designed motion-sensitive solar lamps called Sunseekers comprising strings of disk-shaped elements suspended between poles illuminating walkways. The design is representative of the studio’s more limited edition pieces.
Other designs that draw from nature include the Feather family, which consists of free-formed structures with various interchangeable hand-blown LED bulbs. These bulbs can be attached to a series of barb-like prongs to alter the intensity of the light. Here, the free-flowing electricity is the lamp’s most versatile feature.
“We often start from a very technical goal which inspires us,” explains Jongsma. “We often use the material from the design itself to provide electricity and we work a lot with conductive materials. Next to that we place materials that diffuse the light—those two aspects define our designs.”
For them, it’s all about discovering new ways of doing things. “Our Floating Lights are a good example,” says Jongsma of one of the studio’s most striking designs. The system is made up of remarkable pendants that hang in a cluster like jellyfish. Alternatively, the light sculpture can be infinitely extended and personalised to create bespoke designs.
“It becomes possible to make huge installations of light without wasting metal. The bending of the wire is a really clean production process—simply cut and continue. It’s Much better for the environment than laser cutting.”
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With every new design, Vantot shows how poetic and beautiful contemporary LED techniques can be, while shining a positive light on the idea of exposed electrical currents. At present, Vantot is looking at ways to generate light from sources of kinetic energy. Beyond this, Jongsma and Vangurp are hoping to create stand-alone lighting without cords or lattice structures altogether.
“Our goal in the future is to not have to use the grid anymore,” Jongsma says. “Imagine streetlights which you can just place in the street without connecting them to an electricity source.”