How One Architect is Changing the Way We Think About Lighting

A woman wearing a black long-sleeved shirt holding a long rectangular light fixture over her shoulder.

Architect Carlotta de Bevilacqua on lighting design, ethos and the aging eye.

“Light is life,” says Carlotta de Bevilacqua in her Italian-accented Eng-lish. “Light feeds our brains. And so it feeds our physiological behaviours.” To her point, who can deny more pep in their step as we move in to summer?

Of course, de Bevilacqua’s realm is artificial illumination. She is a celebrated lighting designer known for innovating as with her early adoption of LED technology. Also a successful entrepreneur, the 61-year-old runs her own architectural, design, and graphic studio alongside duties as vice-president of Milan-based brand Artemide.

A split screen showing lighting options for the Tolomeo, which include a warm, cold and bright lighting options.
The multiple lighting options for Artemide’s Tolomeo task lamp.

“I think it’s important to stay within the idea of values,” she says about the future of lighting, using the example of advances to Artemide’s famous task lamp Tolomeo (pictured above). In production since 1986, it was converted to energy-saving LED in 2006. And in 2010, the company added tuneable technology. “So you could have a Tolomeo and if you need to read, you could tune it to the colder [brighter white] setting and if you need only to have ambience lighting, you can go warmer,” she explains. This is helpful as we age, she notes, as muscles that control our pupils weaken, impairing pupil response to widen in dim or dark settings.

To compensate, we need to brighten our surroundings – especially for fine tasks. “We become the author of our light.”

In the future, she predicts, “We will discover how to provide the best light, lower energy, [better] interaction and so on.” This holistic approach is evident with Algoritmo, launched last year. She designed the fixture to be easily customizable with patented high-efficiency lights.

An international speaker and a lecturer at Polytechnic University of Milan, de Bevilacqua is passing on her ideals. “I say to the students, ‘It’s very important [that] the first part [of design] is giving value. It’s also very important to deliver for the planet.’”

Tolomeo from $210. Algoritmo from $400,

A version of this article appeared in the June 2018 issue with the headline, “Flip The Switch,” p. 16.