In the heart of the sixties, a meaningful encounter occurred in Lucca, Italy. Gae Aulenti, a renowned architect and designer, presented a unique lamp design to Elio Martinelli, the patron of world-renowned light-design brand Martinelli Luce. This would later become an absolute icon of global design – the Pipistrello Lamp.

The History of The Pipistrello Lamp

Martinelli was immediately captivated by Aulenti’s design. However, the transition from concept to production was far from straightforward. The telescopic stem was challenging to industrialize, and the complex shape of the diffuser, with its deep, bat-wing-like protrusions, was not easy to realize, given the molding capabilities of the time. The project stayed in the drawers of the company for some time as they grappled with these challenges.

Remember, the advanced technologies we have today were unavailable at that time. Preparing the mold for the diffuser was particularly difficult, especially considering that Martinelli Luce is a company that has always produced its pieces in-house.

Yet, in the face of these obstacles, the team persevered, and in 1967, the Pipistrello Lamp by Gae Aulenti for Martinelli Luce finally hit the market. But it wasn’t an instant success story.

The turning point came in 1972 when the lamp was showcased at the exhibition ‘Italy: The New Domestic Landscape’ held at MoMA in New York. This exposure catapulted the Pipistrello Lamp onto the international stage, cementing its status as a global design icon.

At first glance, the lamp’s design might seem somewhat whimsical and feminine, but it quickly won over the public, particularly in France. Perhaps this was due to its Art Nouveau flavor, which works well with French interior décor.

Pipistrello Lamp by Gae Aulenti for Martinelli Luce

A Blend of Art and Functionality

The Pipistrello Lamp is emblematic of Gae Aulenti’s design language. It is part of the cultural and artistic trajectory that rejected the rationalism of the International Style and embraced the new wave of Neoliberty.

Over the years, the lamp has established itself as a cult object, available in both floor and table versions and even in a mini version (which was not part of Gae Aulenti’s original design due to her deteriorating health conditions).

The Pipistrello lamp has won over many users who see it as the ideal lamp for a corner of their home or their desk, thanks to its not-too-bright light and the bat-wing-inspired diffuser.

Now, after fifty-five years, the Pipistrello Lamp has become a museum piece despite its modernity. The MoMA in New York has included it in its permanent collection, a testament to Italian design’s ability to create useful and refined objects.

Design and Features of the Pipistrello Lamp

The Pipistrello Lamp is soft, not cold. Originally only available in two colors – dark brown and white – it features a telescopic system in stainless steel that allows height adjustment. The diffuser is made of opal white methacrylate, and the base is either white or dark brown lacquered metal.

The elusive shape of the conical base develops upwards, expanding into the ribs of the diffuser like the spread wings of a bat.

Unmistakable for the shape of its diffuser, the lamp remains in production today and retains the expressive power that makes it suitable for any environment and decor.

Projects by Martinelli Luce, true examples of minimalist but technologically up-to-date design philosophy, never tire and manage to endure the test of time and changing fashions, maintaining their charm and seductive power.

The Pipistrello Lamp, a timeless piece that continues to captivate and fascinate, owes not only its style and the ingenious design of Gae Aulenti but also the company’s desire to dare and reintroduce it in various colors, sizes, and uses to better meet an ever-evolving market.

Olivetti Store in Paris

Celebrating Design Excellence: The Pipistrello Lamp and Martinelli Luce Legacy

In conclusion, the Pipistrello Lamp by Gae Aulenti is not just a luminary. It is a testament to the power of innovative design, the courage to overcome production challenges, and the ability to adapt and evolve with the times.

And remember, Martinelli Luce was not just about Gae Aulenti. The brand has been home to creations from many famous designers, such as Lella and Massimo Vignelli and Sergio Asti, further establishing its reputation as a global leader in light design.

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