Undoubtably, Danish Poul Henningsen (1894-1967) is one of the legendary names when it comes to MCM lightning design. Henningsen (PH) started his career in developing modern lighting solutions when such technologies as an incandescent bulb was a relatively new innovation. According to his design philosophy, the beauty of an object must rise from the connection between its purpose and shape. Any practical challenges, such as e.g. the glare associated with the use of incandescent bulbs, had to be solved before the question of the light fixture's beauty could be addressed.
PH aimed to develop totally glare free lighting solutions by optimally fitting of the incandescent bulb and designing the light fixture to reflect diffuse light. He also wanted to be able to concentrate the light in a preferred direction, usually downwards, which was naturally achieved by reflecting the light by the shades indirectly. The colour of a given light was always chosen to match the function in the most cost-effective way possible to give each light the exact level of warmth desired.
|See no glare?|
The PH Artichoke (Originally named PH Kogle) was introduced in 1958 in the Langelinie Pavilion in Copenhagen, Denmark. Only a year earlier the demanding task of Pavilion lighting design was passed to Henningsen by the architects Eva and Nils Koppel, who were responsible for designing the space.
As only very rough sketches exist from the time before installation of PH Artichoke in the Pavilion, it is believed the light was developed extremely quickly. This is different from the other PH lights, demonstrated by the numerous archived sketches still available. The surprisingly fast development time of the light was indeed enabled by the fact that the PH Artichoke is actually believed to be based on an other PH light designed 30 years earlier, the PH Septima. During the development of the Septima, Henningsen had in fact designed also a metallic version of this light, but the concept never reached production. These drawings later on formed the basis of the PH Artichoke, launched some 30 years later.
Since it's launch, the Artichoke has expanded to include a series of four lights in different sizes: 84, 72, 60 and 48cm diameters. The largest Artichoke requires a stunning 500W bulb and it is used in spacious public or corporations settings, whereas smaller models, suited for a residential set up, use a 300W bulb with a dimmer. Originally in the Langelinie Pavilion a 1000W bulb was installed in each Artichoke to ensure the right warm atmosphere. It has been said that once the lights were installed, PH found the light to be too strong and realized weaker bulbs could have been used.
In the original Artichoke, the shades were lacquered brushed copper on the outside and coated with weak pink (same than in Pink Septima) in the insides. In the mid-70's, an optional new leaf material, stainless steel was introduced, and in early 1980's the completely white Artichoke became available to the public.
And why are we suddenly so interested in the PH Artichoke?
The Olive Green Window has been a host for quite a few PH lights, some of which have already found a new owner on their journey. Without a doubt, however, the above introduced Artichoke is one of our all time favourites. This particular piece was a recent find from an internet auction and arrived to our home from Denmark. It is an early, 60 diameter model made of copper...and upon its arrival, was in horrid condition, stinky and covered with tar, nicotine and dead insects. Exactly something you want hanging above your dining room table.
|Desperately needing a face lift|
We are not sure about the exact date of manufacturing of this piece. Inside the light we found a label with some sort of numbering, perhaps a specific product code in the Poulsen product portfolio.
Pekka stripped the filthy Artichoke down to the bone in order to update it properly so it would be safe to use in every day life. Regarding the functional dimension of this light, one of the focus areas was clearly the electrical components such as sockets and wiring. All these were either throughly cleaned or changed during the process to allow safe use.
|Wired out electrics|
With a vintage Artichoke, one has to be aware of the existence of sulfur spots, also known as the flyspecs in the numismatic society. These dark brown or black spots appear on copper leafs and are formed when copper is exposed to the sulfur from the environment. Actually, it is quite normal for a vintage light to have some spots on it. In our case, however, they were all over and something needed to be done, desperately.
|Sulfur spots on copper leaves|
There are several different ways one can clean the copper leafs of a PH Artichoke. The chosen method depends on how dirty the item is. We were looking at the dirtiest end of the spectrum, basically everything from dust to tar, and nicotine to sulfur spots. The first three are really not a problem, whereas the sulfur spots change the game completely.
These anomalies on the surface finish are an outcome of the process called sulphatation and require a bit more intrusive method than just wiping to get rid of them. To remove the spots, Pekka first removed the clear coat finish. Once treated and cleaned, the difference between before and after was dramatic. A word of warning: if you choose to clean one, it is a one way road - to have an uniform look you have 71 more to go, regardless of them being in need of cleaning or not.
A piece of advice: work the leaves only in the direction of the brushed surface finish, and the end result will be fine. The observed down side was that by treating the leaves you also wipe off the years of patina. Unfortunately, in the case of the copper Artichoke is a major thing, but a compromise we needed, and wanted to make.
|Old and new|
When disassembling a structurally rather complex item such as the PH Artichoke, it was essential to do it in a systematic manner. There are 72 leaves of copper in 12 rows, all of which are different in size. After taking all the copper leaves off, all that was left was a bare steel structure.
|Piles of copper|
The steel skeletal was also disassembled down to single components enabling a more effective cleaning. For these elements a wash with warm water and soap was sufficient to rid the nicotine and tar accumulated over the years.
|Clean steel skeleton|
The painted components were first washed and dried. Afterwards, they all received a new layer of fresh white paint.
Once everything had been cleaned and re-treated, the big moment was finally there. Pekka was able to start the assembly, the moment everybody had been waiting for.
|Installation of the copper leaves|
After two and half months of intensive restoration this stunningly beautiful MCM light finally hangs above our dining table. It is unbelievably beautiful. Just gorgeous. And we are completely in love with it!
|Finally, the Artichoke has found its place|
And last but not least - what are Urho's thoughts on this? Well, as so many times before, he could not care less. In Urho's opinion, the best thing about the Artichoke is that the 300W bulb creates some additional heat to the chilly autumn days. We are nearing the time of the year Urho starts cuddling closer and closer to warm human bodies, or when there is no warm body around, he simply digs his way between the couch pillows. So any extra heat, even a fraction of a degree, is warmly welcomed by our heat-seeking sausage.
|Between the pillow and a hard place|