Why Was A Luxury Desk Lamp Made From Concrete?

When people think of the types of materials that make a beautiful luxury desk lamp, they tend to consider polished metal and glass as the primary materials of choice. 

One material that almost never gets linked to opulent luxury is concrete, with one unique exception thanks to the work of one of the most celebrated and enigmatic architects.

Born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret but known internationally as Le Corbusier, the Swiss architect was an aggressive advocate of truth to materials, particularly strongly advocating the use of raw, unfinished concrete known as béton brut.

Arguably the most famous and influential of his buildings was La Cité Radieuse in Marseille, one of his “Unité d’Habitation” series of housing projects and a key influence on modernist architecture and brutalism.

It features wide corridors inside to act as streets in the sky, and illuminating the outdoor walkways were somewhat unusual concrete lamps known as Borne Béton.

It was a relatively simple, sweeping design cast out of concrete, with a strip lamp in the top point, providing a surprisingly wide lighting range due to the shape of the concrete reflector.

The lights were also exported to India, where it was used to light up the Bhakra Dam, the second-largest dam in Asia and one of the most astonishing concrete achievements of the era.

Whilst many buildings inspired by Unité d’Habitation would be strongly criticised by people living in them for being cramped and dark, the generous space offered by Le Corbusier’s designs meant that, for the most part at least, it remains popular with the professionals living there today.

The sweeping lamp design would be influential in itself, inspiring a wide range of follow-up desk lamps. However,  none of these would take the extra step of being cast out of concrete, with future designs opting instead for metal, plastic or glass as a design material instead.