Truly inspiring designers are stars in a constellation, using their light to interconnect with others. London-based, Cyprus-born artist and designer Michael Anastassiades is one of the brightest.
Anastassiades took time to speak with id when he was recently in Dubai to discuss his ‘Arrangements’ installation for Flos lighting, and architecture and design studio SVENM and audiences were captivated by this graceful, thoughtful lighting system.
Destined to become yet another iconic piece, its poetic geometric modular lights draw multiple combinations of jewel-like chandeliers, producing a sensory experience that elevates the everyday. One can start by simply purchasing a single unit and choosing to add to it at a later date. The linking process is extremely poetic and simple.
But those familiar with this current iteration of Anastassiades’ design philosophy see how it’s an extension of his dynamic trajectory.
“My work is about achieving timelessness in the design of an object through materiality. It’s about selecting materials that communicate what they actually are: metals that look like metals, and not plastics with a metalised finish made to communicate a metallic surface. It’s about materials that age well and that develop beautiful patinas over the passage of time. It’s also about the simplicity of form; the removal of excess layers of information from the design language of an object. I use a process of subtraction through which the elements that get retained are the bare essentials that still make the object functional, as well as familiar,” he explains.
Born in Cyprus, he was lucky to have met Neoptolemos Michaelides, the great architect and visionary. “He was a close friend of my father [and] has influenced the way I see things now,” he explains. “Light is a very poetic medium and as an object, it is unique in that it has to exist in two completely different settings: when it is on and when it is off.”
Already honoured by the world’s leading design authorities, his work is featured in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the V&A Museum in London, the Crafts Council in London, the FRAC Centre in Orleans, France, and the MAK in Vienna, to name a few.
Still, when asked about his three most important projects over the course of his career, Anastassiades takes a humble and personal approach, a reflection of his appeal. Firstly, he chooses ‘Message Cup’ – “for being my graduation project and for questioning the role of electronic products in our everyday life.” Next is his Tube Chandelier – for being his first commercial light fixture. Finally, he chooses String Lights – “for allowing people to draw in three dimensions and offering creativity back to the user.”
His new Arrangements collection follows in the steps of String Lights, as its conceptual foundation is rooted in creativity and choice.
“My inspiration: The freedom to create a chandelier of your own choice through the combination of various light elements. To research it I thought about the parallels between lighting and jewelry. The challenge was to achieve the smallest section of linear LED lighting that is beautifully uniform and sophisticated in its colour temperature and dimming. I found a solution via the great technical knowledge and support of R&D at Flos.”
Enjoying his time at Dubai Design Week, Anastassiades was quick to speak about his experience in the city. “What fascinates me most about Dubai is the creation of a whole city in such a short period of time,” he explains. “There is a strong design community in Dubai. There is definitely talent there and a good supporting audience.”
In addition to his appreciation of Dubai’s talent, he cites his experience with SVENM. “[They] have created an amazing space in the art district. I was approached by them to do a collaborative project. It is hard to resist an offer like that when it comes with such a high level of sophistication.”
As part of his role as a leader in the field, it’s also incumbent upon Anastassiades to speak of his concerns about the future of the industry.
“Design is going through a manic state of fast consumption, the pace of which is the result of social media. Everything seems superficial and only survives through the simple creation of an image,” he says. “The biggest challenge is to create distance from this and really question our contribution in the design of yet another object. Everything is a simple derivative of something else that is already around and nobody seems to acknowledge things that have happened in history.”
But he is clear that the future of lighting is anything but dim. “The rapid evolution in lighting technology over the last 20 years is definitely much faster than at any other time in history. The introduction of LED lighting has allowed for so many other possibilities to exist. What we must remember is to continue to look for poetry. We must embrace technology only as another tool for creativity, and not allow it to tell us what we can and what we cannot do,” he continues.
As for advice, the best he has been given: “Practice and all is coming.” The worst: “To never stop.” For young designers, his thoughts are sage. “If they believe in what they do, they should keep on doing it. There is not one path for achieving your dreams.” We look forward to the next stop on his journey.