April 18, 2012
“Surface Tension Lamp” by FRONT
The spherical form of a soap bubble has been frequently appropriated by neo-materialists such as Manuel Delanda, who finds in it a didactic spatial model that can be used towards re-conceptualizing the “genesis of physical forms.” For Delanda, the soap bubbles’ morphogenesis is immanent, a form-finding process of topological points seeking stabilization rather than a manifestation of ideal geometric forms; in this case, the resultant sphere emerges when the bubble’s surface tension has been minimized. Along the same thought, Frei Otto famously conducted a series of material studies using soap-film in the design of the 1972 Munich Olympic Stadium. Otto observed the material behavior of the bubble skins under several different parameter constraints, the results of which he extrapolated a structural network of supports.
Similarly, the Surface Tension Lamp embraces design as a process. Designed by FRONT, the lamp has no bulb in the traditional sense, but, instead, spews a constant chain of bubbles, each of which pops at the touch before being replaced by the next in line. A LED light source embedded in the base of the fixture emanates light which is caught by the expanding bubble and reflected throughout the room. Though the bubbles are alike, sharing nearly identical formal properties and undergoing the same morphogenic process, they are, nevertheless, different and, thus, subtly modulate light from one to the next. According to the designers, the LED unit is expected to last for 50,000 hours, during which time the lamp “will have had 3 million different globe shades.”