On 21 October, prolific German industrial designer Ingo Maurer – known best for his lighting – passed away at age 87, at home in Munich. He illuminated the design world with his work, which spans decades: to honour his life and legacy, we publish an interview held between Maurer and Tim Groen included our 2018 book, What I’ve Learned.
Munich – ‘I spent my childhood on an island in Lake Constance, near the Swiss border, where I went through difficult years during the war. I consider myself blessed growing up on an island, because you’re surrounded by light. My father was a fisherman, and I spent a lot of time with him on the lake. I saw things dancing in the light, an experience that I applied to my work years later.’
‘I think of myself as a weed. I just grew, and a weed always comes back up. I went to school for only six years because of the war. That was it. I studied typography for three years and then commercial art in Munich. In 1960 I escaped to the US where – during that first stint – I remained for three years, working for a small advertising agency as graphic designer and art director.’
‘In 1966 I designed my first commercial object, Bulb. I was in Venicefor a project involving glass. I stayed at a very cheap penzione. One day, after having lunch by myself, I went back to my tiny room, a little drunk, and noticed this fantastic 15-watt light bulb. I completely fell in love with it. All I could think was: I have to do something with this. Later I took my sketches to Murano, where they created the glass element, and that was more or less the start.’
‘I think the design that’s closest to my soul is Don Quixote, a lamp I made in 1989. It combines a lot of different techniques and elements. Commercially, it hasn’t been extremely successful, but I think it’s one of the most daring lamps I’ve done. It represents my freedom.’
‘On an average working day in Munich, I’ll come in, say a big hello to everyone and have my espresso – with a splash of Fernet Branca, just to ‘kick’ my brain. Then we get to work on some 30 different projects, which are running simultaneously. They range from big public projects, like entire subway stations, to unique lights and collection pieces.’