14051 Mon, 03/17/2008 - 11:30am
By Nancy Meyer
NEW YORK–The late George Kovacs is inspiring a new generation of lighting designers.
Nearly 100 students from Pratt Institute of Design participated in the inaugural George Kovacs Lighting Competition, which challenged them to create lamps that exemplify the modern aesthetic of the late Kovacs while using energy-efficient light sources. The lamps also had to address issues regarding green manufacturing, or sustainability.
The students had three weeks to create their work. Of the 97 initial design entries, 26 finalists were selected, critiqued and given two weeks to refine their projects to display at a gallery show at the New York Design Center. During the Feb. 28 gallery opening reception and crowded awards ceremony, four winners were presented with prizes and monetary awards. (See HFend, page 122.) The gallery show continued through March 7.
Most of the table and floor lamps used compact fluorescent or light-emitting diode sources, but that was the only thing they had in common. Shapes, sizes, materials and concepts varied widely. Some resembled flowers, plants and living creatures, while others were more industrial-looking, mechanical or sculptural. There was an arc floor lamp inspired by bioluminescence with glass droplet globes. A “kumo cloud” desk lamp resembled stacked square white pillows on an angular base. A “solar eclipse” lamp has an on/off switch triggered by pushing down on the entire unit. Among the others were contemporary architect lamps, arc lamps with drum shades and a pair of geometric-base accent lamps with gray felt drum shades.
“What really impressed me about all the students was the wide range of designs, design ideas and use of materials,” said Alecia Wesner, Kovacs’ former business partner and principal of Kovacs-Wesner Design Group, one of the competition sponsors. “Students really expressed their individuality.”
A first-prize check for $1,000 was presented to Jennie Maneri, of Brooklyn, N.Y., for her Night Sky collection of perforated-ceramic bisque tabletop uplights in varying heights. Together, they made a beautiful cityscape. Maneri said she was inspired by the night sky, the moon and stars, which she called “the original night light.”
“First place was a universal favorite,” Wesner told HFN. “Second and third place were a little more tricky.”
Second place, and $350, went to Austin Doten of Brooklyn, N.Y., for his Fiya clear cylindrical LED uplight. The Fiya has clear acrylic plates dissecting the uplight, splaying the light in many directions. The color temperature of the light changes from warm to cool with the use of the LEDs.
Third place and $150 were presented to Robert Volek, of Budapest, Hungary, for his Filament touch floor lamp, which resembles the filament from an old-fashioned incandescent bulb, but uses LEDs in the coiled filament.
Once the judging began, the judges had to create a fourth category, for most creative concept. That honorable mention was presented to Alexandra Pulver for Hour Glass, a rechargeable accent light that turns off after an hour, similar to the concept of an hourglass running out of sand. The New York Design Center awarded Pulzer $100 for her creativity, as the honorable mention category hadn’t originally been budgeted for, Wesner said.
Pratt students also voted for their favorite, and Maneri got the most votes.
Minka Group officials are considering some of the designs for possible production.
In addition to generating innovative product concepts, the competition served to preserve Kovacs’ legacy of spotlighting contemporary design. Kovacs died last June at age 80.
“George was a businessman but his true passion was design, and he loved being around designers and being part of the creative process,” Wesner said.
Throughout his career, Kovacs gave budding designers a chance and put their work into his line. “That’s how he ended up with me,” Wesner mused. Eleven years ago, Kovacs hired Wesner as in-house designer after she responded to his classified ad in The New York Times. It was her first real design job after graduating from Syracuse with an industrial design degree, she said.
“He took me under his wing, he listened to my ideas and he let me create,” Wesner told the audience at the ceremony. “I eventually became the director of design and then his business partner, and now I co-own the brand name. But I started as an ID student. I designed some lamps in college, and a famous man thought I had talent and maybe I could add something to his company.
“Really, I was no different than many of the Pratt students here tonight,” Wesner told the crowd.
Judges were Wesner; Erin Hoober, vice president of design for Westin Starwood Hotels; and Christian Arkay-Leliever, of Arkay-Leliever Creative Consultancy. The event was sponsored by the New York Design Center; The Minka Group, manufacturer and distributor of George Kovacs Lighting; and Kovacs-Wesner Design Group.