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A design classic that still stands tall today

The lamp that’s a shining example of 20th-century design

A design classic that still stands tall today

July 11 2011
Mark C O’Flaherty

Recently I had the very great pleasure of staying in one of the new Maison Martin Margiela-designed suites at the refurbished Maison Champs Elysées in Paris. While I loved the distinctly Margiela touches at the hotel (black and white trompe l’oeil and silvered corridors), it was the choice of the sublimely purist Prouvé Potence wall lamp for the suite that I was in – the Black Room – that I found most thrilling.

I have a Potence at home, and it’s not just one of my favourite possessions, it’s one of my favourite design items of all time. It was designed in collaboration with former Le Corbusier student Charlotte Perriand for Prouvé’s prefab Tropique house (now owned by hotelier André Balazs) in 1950 and is one of the most striking and elegant examples of modernist furniture from the 20th century.

The Potence, which has the distinctly industrial style of Perriand’s work, is still produced by Vitra (£855.60). It is essentially one long black metal tube that extends 80 inches from the wall, with the ability to move a full 180 degrees around its wall mount. It’s a bold object and makes a virtue of its simple but eloquent mechanics: the light bulb remains bare, and the dimmer cord hangs from the mount. It’s a stark yet perfectly honed piece of design, with immense presence.

I have mine installed so that it can illuminate my living area, but it can also be swung around to hover above my circular dining table. The glow (and I recommend a deco-style carbon filament globe bulb) is at once heavenly and machine-age.

See also

Lamps, Vitra