Lighting design

Tonda by Ferruccio Laviani for Foscarini: a lamp as a careful balancing act

Inspired by almost contradictory influences (modernism and radical design) the new Foscarini lamp is at the same time a sculptural piece and a talking point for design connoisseurs

Vintage design lamps are a safe bet for brands. Indeed, early to mid-20th century looks feature familiar forms that, as such, are perceived as harmonious, perfectly fitting, comforting to the eye for most.

The result of this retro approach is often a déjà vu: colors and shapes that make the eye to design classics, verging on being a copy and breathing out a nostalgia that true interior lovers can easily spot.

Some exercises in this field, though, follow a totally different approach.

It happens when a designer doesn’t get inspired by forms and styles of the past but by the thinking that generated them decades ago.

And actualizes them using a contemporary language.

Tonda by Ferruccio Laviani for Foscarini _ a lamp as a careful balancing act
Tonda by Ferruccio Laviani for Foscarini

A perfect example is Tonda, designed by Ferruccio Laviani for Foscarini and introduced at the Design Week 2022.

When you look at Tonda – a blown glass sphere supported by a metal brace while being unattached to it – you get the same feeling of surprise mixed with irony that some pieces from the 1970s used to provoke.

You are left wondering how it all works, whether the careful balancing act between the very solid, sturdy element and the aethereal one is really enough to make the suspension a stable element in your interior.

The geometries of the two elements, and the use of tubular metal for the frame, also recalls the flavors and the essentiality of Modernism, when form followed function.

So you start wondering: is this a vintage design lamp? Not so much in terms of looks. Yet its spirit – as Ferruccio Laviani explains – is definitely inspired by two historical movements: Good Design, aka Modernism, and its nemesis, Italian radical design from the 70s.

Tonda by Ferruccio Laviani for Foscarini _ a lamp as a careful balancing act
Tonda by Ferruccio Laviani for Foscarini

And as two almost contradictory historical influences merge in one single object, the result is a savvy mix between an extremely familiar shape (the suspended sphere is a lighting design classic) and a surprise element (the illogical balancing act). Two ingredients that make Tonda

a versatile lighting sculpture conceived to fit and personalize a wide variety of interiors. 

This capacity is evident when browsing Vite, Foscarini’s latest book – the second chapter was recently released here

This very unusual publication features Foscarini’s lamps in real homes, portrayed by artist-photographer Gianluca Vassallo, with a particular focus on people and their life stories with interiors serving as backdrops. 

More than any perfectly styled photoshoot, Vite’s portraits of real lives’ scenarios is the perfect set to discover Tonda in all its versatility: a lamp designed to be reassuring but also daring, soothing but  bold, known but yet to be discovered.

Tonda by Ferruccio Laviani for Foscarini

When I started to think of Tonda for Foscarini”, Ferruccio Laviani explains, “I wanted to imagine a lamp that could evoke the atmosphere of the homes I used to see on magazines when I was a kid. Interiors made up of well thought out objects, rational yet visionary, functional yet atmospheric, able to stir a conversation”.

Indeed Tonda is a lamp that requires some attention from the observer.

In order to truly understand it, you need to circle around it.

Only by doing so, you perceive the variations in the glass thickness (mouth-blown), and figure out that what seems an apparently illogical equilibrium: the brace is out of alignment yet it supports the sphere, thanks to the counterweight provided by the tube made of colored and bent metal.

It is gravity challenged, denied, and finally explained by

a design gesture that is at the same time light as a playful riddle and strict as a theorem.

The overall purpose was to come out with a sculptural lamp whose looks recalled the Modernist dream of the perfect balance between form and function while also creating an atmosphere”, continues Laviani.

Tonda by Ferruccio Laviani for Foscarini

The atmosphere that the designer refers to owes a lot to the quality of the glass sphere.

Mouth-blown, the diffuser is nuanced featuring a white shade going upwards and becoming progressively transparent as the eye moves downwards.

It’s a light guided by the sensitive mastery of a human being and not by the cold precision of a machine”, explains Laviani, referring to the attention to craftsmanship details and skills typical of Foscarini productions.

Tonda by Ferruccio Laviani for Foscarini _ a lamp as a careful balancing act
Tonda by Ferruccio Laviani for Foscarini

The shaded glass manufacturing process that was used to make Tonda is indeed complex:it is up to the sensitivity of the master glassmaker to grasp the exact combination and fusion of white nuance and transparency get the shade. That’s why every glass is unique, and the transition between the two colors varies slightly from piece by piece.

Available in two sizes, with its metallic structure in different colors, Tonda is thus a sculptural piece and, at the same time, an excellent example of how good design can create a cultural, subtle link with a glorious past without giving in to nostalgia.


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