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Friday Focus - Artemide Tolomeo Lamp

A juxtaposition of the traditional and the contemporary

The use of parchment as a material predates the birth of Christ. It was popularised during the great years of Greek civilisation following the death of Alexander the Great known as the Hellenistic Period. The word parchment in fact derives from the ancient Greek town of Pergamon, although the use of parchment itself dates back at least to the Ancient Egyptians. Its widespread use continued well into the Middle Ages until it was supplanted by paper and the newly invented printing presses of the 15th Century.

It is a very durable material and many ancient and mediaeval manuscripts survive only because they were written on parchment, including the copy of Magna Carta currently housed in the British Library that has survived since 1215. The material may seem anachronistic but there was a huge outcry when it was proposed last year that Parliament would no longer hold copies of laws on the form of parchment known as vellum, as had been the practice for a 1,000 years. The argument was that vellum is a much more durable material than even archival paper and the proposed £80,000 saving was a false economy.  

It also survives as a material in product design, perhaps most notably as a base material for the shade on the classic Tolomeo lighting range from Artemide designed by Michele De Lucchi and Giancarlo Fassina. As with many such design classics, the materials used are carefully chosen to create a juxtaposition of the traditional and contemporary with more than a nod to craftsmanship. In the case of the Tolomeo range, the parchment shade not only acts as a counterpoint to the sleek modern aluminium frame, its opacity also makes the light it generates subtle and humane, especially when used with the dimmer switch option.



The range, which features both desktop and floor standing variants, is genuinely iconic and earned a prestigious Red Dot Design Award in 2003. It proves that even in a world that moves so quickly, there is still the chance to apply ancient technologies and materials to meet contemporary challenges.


To find out more about the Artemide Tolomeo Lamp please click here.
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