In his seminal book The Natural House, architect Frank Lloyd Wright wrote: ‘More and more, so it seems to me, light is the beautifier of the building.’ Artists and cinephiles have long known that harnessing light and bending it to your will is the key to lasting art. Architects too, since Wright, have understood illumination to be an essential component for built spaces. It is the element that provides drama, comfort and mood; it can be manipulated and controlled, and can also delight and surprise. A design that doesn’t consider light as a central principle is nothing more than a shell. When Blakstad architect and interior designer Alfredo Cirelli met Marco Pollice of Pollice Iluminazione, both designers saw an opportunity to take their two passions into the future.
Vicenzo Pollice was a pioneer in light technology. Anticipating how it would continue to evolve over time to bring light to people across the world, he founded an engineering firm in 1908. His fixation infected his nephew Ugo, who was born in Puglia in 1901 before moving with the rest of the family to Milan. Following his uncle’s footsteps, he too became an engineer specialising in lighting. Gifted and tireless, Ugo worked for major companies across Italy setting up regional offices in addition to the capital and Milan. In 1933, Ugo resigned from his position at a German lighting firm and struck out on his own and Pollice Iluminazione was born – finally putting the family name to what had become a family-wide passion. Just a few short years later, and with a catalogue of hundreds of unique designs, the name Pollice was synonymous with excellence in lighting.
After the war, the services of Pollice Iluminazione had never been more important and the company went on to win some prestigious public contracts to rebuild Italy, including lighting the entire railway system. Ugo was joined by sons Marco and Cesare in the 1960s, when Pollice Iluminazione collaborated with the great architects of the time and continued to develop and experiment with new technologies. Work with regional governments remained consistent and there are still parts of Lombardy fitted with Pollice lighting from that era. The company has illuminated countless private homes in addition to some world-famous icons including the striking outdoor lighting of Milan Cathedral, noted for the way it promotes the intriguing details of this magnificent building, Europe’s oldest highway, the Autostrada del Sole, plus the Mont Blanc Tunnel and the seminal Flaminio Stadium in Rome. This shows the ease with which the company moves between the public and private spheres.
These days the firm is headed up by the third generation of innovative lighting designers. Great nephew, Marco Pollice continues the family legacy, bringing an artistic sensibility to the myriad advances in technology. His background in engineering combined with studies in filmmaking provide him with the perfect combination of artistry and technical knowledge. Under his guidance, Pollice Iluminazione has collaborated with the incomparable architect Zaha Hadid as well as lighting the historic Stadio Delle Alpi in Turin, the Istanbul Stock Exchange, Bloomberg HQ (designed by the inimitable Norman Foster), and private villas from Lake Maggiore to Moscow.
Alfredo met Marco through a friend in Milan and the two immediately hit it off. Instinctively, Alfredo knew Marco’s personal and professional philosophy was a perfect match for the ethos and style of Blakstad. He wasted no time in getting Blakstad director, Rolf Blakstad and Marco together. “The idea of designing our own fixtures has been on the table for a few years now,” says Alfredo. “Because our process and philosophy fit so well with Marco’s, a collaboration seemed natural.”
For Alfredo and Marco alike, the quality of light a lamp emits is as important as the design of the lamp itself. Lighting is the finishing touch rarely noticed by most people, but it’s the one element of design that can single-handedly change the mood of even the most beautifully designed space. When considered as a vital constituent of design, lighting can become uplifting, highlighting striking architectural motifs and encouraging a positive mood.
The Blakstad Design Consultants and Pollice Illuminazione partnership is in the early stages, that exciting moment where creativity trumps all other concerns and the designers have the freedom to play. “We’re working on some lighting projects for some of our houses and also on a collection of lamps to be sold in the Pollice stores,” Alfredo says. The collaboration has also accelerated ideas within the Blakstad team to work towards an eponymous brand of furnishings – something that has been in the embryonic stages for a while. “These kinds of projects need time,” Alfredo concludes. “A lot of time.” With the number of projects at various stages on the Blakstad slate, it’s hard to see where that time will come from. But Alfredo is determined, and plans to methodically continue to move these new projects forwards.