The Giova Lamp, a table lamp designed in 1964 by the renowned Italian designer and architect Gae Aulenti for the lighting company FontanaArte, is a remarkable piece that stands out not only for its unique design but also for its dual function as both a lamp and a vase. This project marked Aulenti’s debut in the field of authorial lighting, setting her apart from other designers of her time.
Historical and Cultural Context
Gae Aulenti once said, “Architecture is a man’s trade, but I always pretended otherwise.” In the period of post-war economic development and urbanization, where the designer’s role was critical in the reconstruction of cities and interior environments, Aulenti emerged as one of the leading figures of the new Italian Neoliberty movement.
She became a proponent of a new symbolic language focused on the use of lines and curved shapes, opposing the philosophy of Italian rationalism and minimalism. Drawing on the theories of Ernesto Nathan Rogers, Aulenti’s figure became increasingly international in the 1960s, thanks to various installations for Olivetti stores in Paris and Buenos Aires.
During the sixties, Gae Aulenti developed a significant dialogue with FontanaArte, creating products that revealed her innovative approach to the use of shapes and materials. The Giova Lamp (1964) marked Aulenti’s debut in the sector of authorial lighting. Giova is one of the icons of authorial design present on the occasion of the creation of the Fly Center in Milan in 1966, of which Gae Aulenti was the art director.
Technical Characteristics of the Giova Lamp
The Giova Lamp consists of a metal base upon which a transparent blown glass globe is positioned. This globe houses the shiny white-blown glass sphere that contains the light source. Above rests a cup of transparent Pulegoso blown glass functioning as a flower vase. The power cable, switch, and plug are black. The lamp is available in two sizes.
Materials and Workmanship
The metal base is available in both chrome and gold-plated finishes. Shiny white-blown glass makes up the lower hemisphere. Furthermore, Pulegoso glass forms the upper hemisphere with its rough, semi-opaque, or translucent surface created by introducing a substance into the molten mass to generate gas bubbles. Napoleone Martinuzzi developed this technique at Venini in the twenties.
Figurative and Plastic Component
Giova’s base comes in both chrome and gold versions, giving it two distinct characters. The chrome version is neutral and discreet, while the gold one is luxurious and showy. The glass of the lower sphere allows the intertwining of curved forms of the three components and the contrast of soft and straight lines obtained from the cut of the spheres. The choice of glasses used also provides an additional contrast, as the material of the upper cap, made of Pulegoso glass, suggests its second function to the user: containing.
The dual function of Giova allows the user to use the object both as a lighting system and as a flower vase. The upper hemisphere, not bound to the rest of the structure, can be removed or rotated. Moreover, as a design artifact, it acts on the sphere of the “being,” working on the identity of the user who owns it.
Starting from the theoretical concepts of the semiologist Jean-Marie Floch, it can be stated that the functions performed by the lamp belong to very different semantic fields, namely lighting and botany. This unusual and innovative combination required particular attention from the designer in combining the two functions, therefore requiring particular attention to the practical side, as it works on utilitarian values. We also find a utopian valorization because, compared to other lamps, Giova works in its aesthetics to be different.
In conclusion, the Giova Lamp by Gae Aulenti represents a unique blend of design and functionality. It reflects the innovative thinking of its creator, and it stands as a testament to the creativity and ingenuity of the many famous designers who have created pieces for FontanaArte, such as Giò Ponti and Max Ingrand. The Gae Aulenti Giova continues to be a favorite among design enthusiasts for its timeless appeal and versatility.