Lighting design is becoming more as an interpretation rather than a solution, translating both traditional and contemporary cultures into tailored aesthetics. Responding to the constantly changing uncertain territories of the world, Lasvit is a brand focusing on experiment and opening up new discussions. Here in Turkey, Lasvit is represented by TEPTA, in a showroom where the light installations take place in the sense of translating today’s moments.
We had a conversation with Maxim Velcovsky, Creative Director of Lasvit, after the Monsters show they designed in this year’s Milan Design Week.
Interview by Bilgen Coşkun&Dilek Öztürk
We like to be very innovative, experimental, and even punk. We question ourselves constantly and try to include creative minds from all around the world fitting with the design philosophy of Lasvit, which we can formulate as experiential design.
Lasvit's Monsters series exhibited at this year's Milan Design Week
Lasvit presented a series of new works of various designers under the title of Monsters in the latest edition of Milan Design Week. How did you come up with this idea?
We live in the age of monsters; political monsters in different countries around the globe. Each designer has brought his own interpretation of monstrosity. Seventeen renowned designers and design studios such as Alessandro Mendini, Daniel Liebeskind, Campana Brothers, Nendo became part of this project. We presented this in a theater with a burlesque show in order to create an outstanding experience.
Lasvit's Monster Cabaret Show at Teatro Gerolamo Milan
We know Lasvit as a leading design firm bringing glass and lighting together to create unique and artistic experiences in collaboration with renowned designers, architects and artists. In addition to this, you develop tableware objects. What was the driving motivation for being active in both of these fields?
It was our brand strategy from the beginning. Someone who cannot afford a lighting from Lasvit or doesn't need one, should be able to enjoy our design in a different form or scale. We are planning to open a store in the city center of Prague in next years. Also, for the store we need different categories of products based on function and price point.
As you mentioned earlier, you are well-known for your collaborations. How do you build your Lasvit community in this sense? You have the heritage and high-tech merged in your products. How does this affect the choice of your partners to collaborate with?
It varies from case to case. Some of the collaborators studied at the university where I teach. I saw their work and sort of headhunted them. With some our roads intersected through common friends. As I started to work with Lasvit I told Leon, the founder of the company that we should include the Czech glass masters such as Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová, René Roubíček, Vladimír Kopecký or Bořek Šípek. Some of them passed away, some of them are in their older ages. They created amazing pieces in the 50s and not many people know much about them within the design community as they used to show their pieces at the World Expos. This was the ground where the East was competing with the West. In this context, art and design were used as tools of propaganda as well. For example René Roubíček designed the first chandelier for us which went to serial production. Before that he was working on one-of-a-kind pieces.
So you built a platform for these Czech masters?
Yes, they designed unique pieces for us. We also added contemporary design masters to our program.
What about your collaborations with the architects such as Daniel Liebesking or Zaha Hadid?
We are collaborating more and more with architects. Architects are the ones who create the space. They create interiors and they have visionary ideas. Therefore they prefer to design lighting themselves. In the end, this is a completely different approach for designing lighting and results in different languages.
When we take a look at the motto of your brand, it is stated as ‘unconditional free spirited creativity’. How do you translate it as the creative director?
You know, we are not a design firm, which is 100 years old. We don't have any pressure to serve for a certain heritage. Lasvit is only 10 years old. We like to be very innovative, experimental, and even punk. We want to come up with new approaches in order to be more diverse. We don't want to be stuck in just one production technique or way of thinking. We question ourselves constantly and try to include creative minds from all around the world fitting with the design philosophy of Lasvit, which we can formulate as experimental design.
Raffles Hotel, Istanbul
We see many design pieces in Lasvit’s collection which require complicated production techniques and processes.
For example in the case of my frozen lamps, it is all about the knowledge of the glassmaker to pour the glass from the top of the metal mold, which drips in different ways. In the end, every piece is unique. It is a very challenging process. No other brand would like to exhibit these pieces as each piece is remarkably different and the whole responsibility is on the shoulders of the guy pouring the glass in the mold. It is a human-centered approach. We try to work with the best craftsmen in the world. We are here to be different.
You work on kinetic sculptures as well which are about conducting reflections. How do you create the interaction through these pieces?
We became one of the pioneers in the field of kinetic glass installation. We differentiate between kinetic and dynamic lighting. In the dynamic pieces, you have stable pieces and the light or the object is moving. We thought that it is time to experiment. It is very much about engineering, as glass shouldn't clash. It is a combination of idea, art and engineering. We create big scale kinetic installations. As the technology improves, we can develop different typologies of kinetic installations. In contemporary architecture, movement becomes a natural part of the space.
What can be the reason for this interaction on a macro level?
It is more about the originality I guess. We would like to push the boundaries of glass and lighting and include smell and sound in the experiences we create.
Do you also involve the user in your design process?
In some cases, we do it. Whereas IKEA has a very democratic approach and makes design available to wider audience, this approach also contributes to homogenization of the design scene. Doesn't matter in which city you go to a hotel, you find similar design concepts. We are trying to break this through bespoke installations. I believe that if you bring a unique lighting installation to a space, it becomes a vital part of the DNA of that space.
A selection of bespoke installations designed in Turkey
From left to right: Ferko Signature, Samsun Sheraton Hotel, Atil Hotel Ankara,
Wyndham Istanbul, The Marmara İstanbul
What does excite you the most in the field of lighting design right now? In which direction do you want to develop your research?
Very often you need to do something provocative. Therefore I did this Memento Mori in Palazzo Serbelloni in Milan with skulls and bones. Here the human body becomes material to decorate an object translated into glass. Glass is a very special material; liquid in the beginning and solid and transparent at the end of its journey. It is also very fragile. We are here to come up with different solutions. We don't follow the trends but experiment and open up new discussions.