In my estimation, the Boalum lamp is one of the most ingenious in the entire pantheon of lighting design. The flexibility of the lamp engages the user by allowing the manipulation of its form. The name Boalum stems from the serpentine (think “boa” constrictor) form and il“lum”inating nature of the lamp. The lamp was designed by Gianfranco Frattini and Livio Castiglioni for Artemide in 1970.
Gianfranco Frattini. Image source: Cassina.
Gianfranco Frattini was born in Padua in 1926 and graduated in architecture at the Milan Polytechnic in 1953, where he remained working until his death. His professional activity was concerned principally with interiors and industrial design. He was an assiduous participant in shows and exhibitions and his design projects won many prizes. In 1956 Frattini was one of the founders of the Associazione per il Disegno Industriale (ADI), Association of Industrial design. His presence was habitually felt at congresses, conventions and furniture fairs worldwide. Gianfranco Frattini died in Milan, Italy on April 6, 2004.
Livio Castiglioni. Image source.
Livio Castiglioni, the eldest of three brothers, was born in Milan in 1911. He studied architecture at Milan Polytechnic until 1936. In 1938 Livio and his brother Pier Giacomo opened a practice on the Piazza Castello in Milan. Since architects were receiving very few commissions at that time, the Castiglioni brothers concentrated primarily on designing objects for daily use, furniture, and appliances.
In 1939 they designed “Phonola,” the first radio encased in Bakelite instead of wood. After finishing his studies, the youngest of the three, Achille Castiglioni, joined his brothers in the practice in 1944. Livio Castiglioni went on his own starting in 1952. Between 1940 and 1960 Livio Castiglioni was a design consultant for Phonola and, from 1960 until 1964, for Brionvega. All three brothers were active in the Italian design scene. In 1956 they were co-founders of the Associazione per il Disegno Industriale (ADI). In 1959-60, Livio Castiglioni was president of the ADI. Livio Castiglioni died in 1979.
For brief biographies of Achille Castiglioni and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, click here.
The first page of the United States “Electric lighting apparatus particularly for decorative uses” patent, number 3,633,023. The lamp is described as a lighting apparatus consisting of a tube of transparent translucent or similar material housing a plurality of series connected lamps which are spaced apart and supported by a number of spherical members. The rest of the patent can be found here.
The second page of the patent, showing detail of the lighting mechanism.
Artemide promotional poster for the Boalum lamp. Front (left) and Back (right).
The poster reads
Usi del Boalum: luce con tante luci. Si prenda il cordone luminoso e si scelga il posto adatto alla sua collocazione: in terra, appeso alla parete o calante dall’alto con nodi e sinuosi ritorni. Adatto all’ingresso o al soggiorno, puo essere indossato in casi eccezionali soprattutto di sera, da donna giovane possibilmente bionda e un po sexy.
Using the Boalum: light with many lights. Take the tube of light and choose the place for its location: on the ground, hanging on the wall or falling from the top with knots and winding return. Suitable for entry or residence, can be worn in exceptional cases especially at night, women young blonde and possibly a little sexy.
Boalum is a flexible table, floor, or wall luminaire for diffused incandescent lighting. It has a tubular body approximately 2” (6cm) in diameter in opal white reinforced flexible plastic material (typically indicated to be PVC, polyvinyl chloride). The lamp can be extended to a maximum length of 200 cm (79”). End caps are made of molded white thermoplastic, suitable for junction and connection of multiple Boalum lamps together to obtain a longer tubular composition. Incandescent source: 25 × 6V 5W bulbs (20,000 hour rating) connected in series and spaced by insulating plastic spheres.
Schematic of the Boalum lamp.
Some views of the Boalum lamp. Image source: eBay.
Imprint on the end cap of the Boalum lamp (Modern Classic edition).
Gianfranco Frattini. Retrieved June 21, 2012 from http://www.cassina.com/portal/page/portal/new/webpages/cassina/designer/detail?p=id:75471&lang=en
Livio Castiglioni. Retrieved June 21, 2012 from http://www.livio-castiglioni.com/