Library Lamp puts a sleek modern spin on a classic lighting fixture

It might be a foreign concept to those born in the age of the Internet and smartphones, but libraries were once the only place where you could get voluminous amounts of correct information. Of course, these institutions still do exist, especially in schools and universities, but the image of a quiet room with shelf after shelf of books might seem odd and even eerie to some. There are aspects of this imagery that have almost become iconic over the decades, such as the archetypal metal-encased lamp used not just in libraries but even in banks. Those lamps would naturally look antiquated on modern desks, so this design reinterprets that classic concept into something that pays homage to the past while also embracing the aesthetics of the present.

Designers: Ben Kicic, Emilio Halperin

The Library Lamp or Banker’s Lamp had a singular purpose: to illuminate the reading material or papers in front of the user without disturbing or distracting others nearby. As such, it often has a softer, less glaring glow than most desk lamps would have today, while still offering enough brightness, especially at night. Of course, these lamps reflected the design trends of that period, which were often more ornate than practical. It would make for a good decorative desk piece, but would still look out of place in today’s workplaces.

This redesign takes the spirit of the library lamp and inserts it in a form that embodies more modern industrial aesthetics, particularly the use of simple shapes and curves as well as unpainted milled aluminum. Instead of a single elaborate stand, the trapezoidal lamp shade is held aloft by two slim arms that also serve to hide the lamp’s internal wiring from plain sight. These parts stand on a horizontal block of metal that has a subtly concave surface that serves not only to diffuse the light but also to hold small objects like keys, pens, and other knickknacks.

In addition to its sleek modern appearance, the Library Lamp also incorporates modern technological conveniences. In particular, the base, arms, and even the lampshade itself are touch-sensitive, providing physical controls without the need for disruptive buttons and switches. Just like its forebear, the lamp gets the job done with minimal fuss and confusion. It also looks quite striking as a representative of the dominant design trend of its period, adding a touch of beautiful minimalism and industrial design to any desk, workspace, or shelf.