design classic: JH604 by Hans Wegner

Although known primarily for his furniture, Hans Wegner did design a number of lights that were produced commercially, including the JH604. 

A small knurled knob on the stem of the pendant means that the position of the bulb can be adjusted in relation to the bottom edge of the metal shade … the shade can be raised to expose the lower part of the lightbulb (as in the photograph) for a general and wider area of light, for instance if it is used over a side table, or it can be lowered so that the bulb is covered when it is hung above a dining table in part to form a tighter pool of light but also so the bulb is tucked up above the lower edge of the shade and does not dazzle people sitting around the table. 

In the original design, a rise and fall unit in a metal globe just above the shade meant that the whole light could be raised up out of the way when there were candles on the table.

This version of the light is produced by Pandul and the rise and fall unit is in plastic in the ceiling fitting which is, apparently, more reliable, but for me it reduces part of the distinct character of the light that made it look so much 'of its period' … although I guess some would argue that the modification makes the present version simpler and therefore rather more timeless.

For writing this post, I tried to work out why I like this light so much - the photograph shows the light I fitted over my dining table a few weeks ago. Some of the reasons are fairly obvious … I like the simple but beautiful profile of the light, its quality and its size … it is surprisingly large with an overall diameter of 510mm. I also realise that part of its appeal is its place in design history. As a design historian I am fascinated by that period in the 1920s and 1930s when design aesthetics changed in Europe with the wider take-up of industrial materials and industrial methods of production for domestic furniture and fittings. The interest in tubular steel, chrome and so on can be found most obviously in the works of the Bauhaus in Germany but there were contemporary products from Austria, France, Belgium, Holland that explored both the new materials and the style that emerged. Of course the JH604 is later, it was designed about 1960, but illustrates clearly that Denmark took its own course through this period … chrome, steel and glass were all used through the 1930s, 40s and 50s but for me the style always remains Danish. This really could not be a Bauhaus lamp. Why? I’ll have to think about that a little more before I write a post on that theme.

For a photograph of the light with a metal rise-and-fall unit see page 72 of the recently published book on Wegner, Wegner just one good chair by Christian Holmsted Olesen (Design Museum Danemark and Hatje Cantz 2014). There is also the reproduction of a working drawing on the same page and on page 77 a photograph of the light over the dining table in Wegner’s own house in Gentofte.