Light can create space – such as a place for an intimate gathering. This is especially so when the light is tactile and can be transformed to suit the purpose. molo co founders and lead designers Stephanie Forsythe + Todd MacAllen have developed urchin softlight over the course of the past decade. The following are Todd’s notes on the ongoing development process.
softlight as an idea was first shown in 2002-3 in the first Lightouch competition, hosted by Design Singapore. Our entry ended up winning the competition.
urchin softlight came about as a result of playing with the flexible honeycomb structures and discovering that forms can flex and change in a very three dimensional way. Stephanie and I cut the first urchins (we called them uni then, which is the Japanese name for sea urchin sushi) by hand.
The first light source was a florescent bulb. We designed a base that could withstand movement and also restricted bulb type – it would only receive florescent light bulbs, not incandescent.
We liked the idea of a lamp that could change shape, texture, and luminosity. It could be placed on a floor, table, or shelf and could adapt to its context.
We found that by starting with a two dimensional cross section that has one flat edge and one curved edge it is possible to fan the 2d cross section about it’s centre, creating a multitude of different straight walled and curved 3d forms, depending on the orientation of the edges.
Once we decided on the shade sizes we refined them so that, in production, they could be nested. A small shade is cut from a medium, and a medium is cut from a large. This reduces material and also makes a void in each lamp so that the layers of honeycomb are effectively doubled up which increases the mesh effect, diffusing more light.
As we began working with LEDs for softwall we began to experiment with how LEDs could be adapted for use with urchin. We liked the simplicity of materials and longevity of LEDs. One issue with LED though is bright spots which we didn’t like. We had to find a way to diffuse the sparkly effect of the LEDs shining through honeycomb. Additionally, we wanted to be able to do a few other things with this new design like ship it in its most efficient form, make the internal light elegant and make it interesting to look at when you open urchin.
We ended up making a simple flat steel armature that is folded so the LED is reversed and shines down against a reflector that softens the light and redirects it into the honeycomb shade.
The evolution of urchin softlight from the original concept to the refined product that is currently available has been continual. As with all molo products, the development is ongoing and improvements are made whenever advances in materials, technology, or process permit.