During a recent interview with the Norwegian designer, Hallgier Homstvedt, I discovered that I had met him at his first show in Milan, at SaloneSatellite back in 2009. That year he was showing with the Swedish designer, Staffan Holm and fellow Norwegian Daniel Rybakken. Chatting about how these two are now enjoying stellar careers, I became resolved to post a profile on Rybakken as he is one of the most exciting lighting designers working today.
Barely 30 years old, Daniel Rybakken grew up in Oslo, Norway. and studied design at the Oslo School of Architecture and the School of Arts & Crafts in Gothenburg, Sweden. On graduating with a Master of Fine Arts in 2008 he started his own practise based in Gothenburg.
Occupying the hazy area between art and design, Rybakken produces limited editions and installations as much as he does designs for serial production. Initially his main focus was working on the concept of daylight and how to artificially recreate its unique qualities. HIs first major award came in 2007 while still at college, when he won the RedDot 'Best of the Best' in the lighting category for his 'Daylight Comes Sideways' design. This wall mounted rectangular box was a type of window in which Rybakken created a space that appeared larger than it actually was through the illusion of moving natural daylight. He created this subconscious illusion of daylight using 1100 LEDs. Since then he has received the RedDot Award for both 'Counterbalance' and 'Ascent'. His 'Colour' light from 2010 was the first of his conceptual pieces to go into production - originally for French brand Lignet Roset in 2011 and then in 2014 by German brand E15.
With the huge success of his 'Counterbalance' wall light which was released by Luceplan in 2013, The design uses a series of cogs that allow the light to be perfectly balanced in any position almost anywhere in a 180º hemisphere. Not since Paolo Rizzatto's '265' wall light for Flos has there been a wall light of such presence and functionality but with Counterbalance the movement of the arm is a joy to watch such is its fluidity and precision. Since the initial designl in 2012, Rybakken has been busy adding additional models to the range and more recently designing an equally brilliant follow up for Luceplan called 'Ascent' , released in 2014. His most recent work for the brand is 'Compendium' a minimal floor and pendant light range..
'Compendium' takes the form of lights such as Eileen Gray's 'Tube' light in appearance but acts more like Castiglione's hybrid 'Parentesi' light in reality. Designed to bounce softer reflected light off walls back into the room, the fine aluminium reflector can rotate so that light can be positioned precisely where it is required. This also allows for the mixing of hard (direct) and soft (reflected) light. The pendant version is suspended from fine wires at each end but works in precisely the same fashion with the reflector rotating to direct light wherever it is needed - up onto the ceiling to create ambient light or directly down onto a work surface.
Rybakken's award-winning 'Ascent' is a beautifully fine table light that doesn't use a standard dimmer but varies it's intensity by the action of sliding the shade up or down the stem. It is available in a number of guises - with the more standard table base or with a fitting that allows it to be mounted directly into a hole in a table or desk - ideal for restaurants and libraries.
While the more conventional lighting forms have been taking up a lot of Rybakken's time in recent years he is still fascinated with more conceptual lighting forms - using reflection, diffusion and layering of shapes to create ambient pieces.
His light installation 'Layers', which opened at the Swedish Institute in Paris in October 2012 is not unlike a giant version of his 'Colour' light from 2010 but without the colour component. The installation was realized together with the Norwegian Embassy in Paris and with help from the Italian lighting company, Luceplan who had obviously already recognised Rybakken's unique talent with lighting prior to releasing 'Counterbalance'.
Not all of Rybakken's work can be divided into the two seemingly opposing camps of practical commercial lighting and conceptual pieces. He has produced designs that float somewhere in between such as his 'Light Tray', a serially produced piece that offers the user an ability to layer their own coloured glass domes on top of the light source to create new colours and effects.
Rybakken isn't particularly interested in the Scandinavian obsession with timber, choosing instead to work in materials like aluminium for its ability to reduce the weight and gauge to a minimum. In a Domus article from 2013, Rybakken explained his preference in materials this way: “I’m attracted by ‘dead’ materials like Corian and aluminium, perhaps because many of my designs recreate something so extremely alive as natural light, and the contrast heightens the impact of the final result.”
His work in glass varies from the organic qualities of blown glass to the precision of mirror but these pieces are always exploring the effect of light through layering, movement and reflection. Interestingly he cites Donald Judd, Dieter Rams, Anish Kapoor and Jeff Koons as his inspirational references - more art than design - but like many of these names his work involves an immense amount of detailed study and technical precision to create what is seemingly a simple idea or form.
For a more detailed look at the work of Daniel Rybakken go to his website by clicking here.
The video below presents a slightly cheesy but non-the-less informative view of Daniel Rybakken's work.