Founded in 1945 by Giuseppe Ostuni, Oluce is the oldest active lighting design company in Italy. Highly influential in the midcentury, Oluce helped pave the way for Italy’s international success in the lighting design sector while working with some of era’s brightest talents, including Joe Colombo, Bruno Gecchelin , Vico Magistretti, and Marco Zanuso.
Oluce first gained recognition after being represented in well-regarded Domus magazine. Although the 1950s brought intense competition from a rising number of modernist, Italian lighting brands—such as Arredoluce, Arteluce, Azucena , Lamperti, and Stilnovo—Oluce established itself as a formidable postwar design force through a series of now iconic designs.
In 1951, Oluce debuted a lamp designed by architect-designer Franco Buzzi in the lighting exhibition curated by the Castiglioni brothers for Milan’s IX Triennale. In 1954, architect-designer Tito Agnoli (1931-2012) designed the groundbreaking and highly reduced Model 255/387 Agnoli Floor Lamp, which marked the beginning of a trend in shade-less lamps.
During the early 1960s, Oluce began collaborating with designer Joe Colombo (1930-1971), who was responsible for a number of highly successful Oluce lamps, including the Model 281 Acrilica Table Lamp (1962, Gold Medal Milan’s Triennial 1964); the weatherproof outdoor Fresnel Series (1964-66); Model 291 Spider Lamp (1965, Compasso d'Oro 1967), which also appeared in the 1972 MoMA exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape; the Coupé Floor Lamp (1967, International Design Award 1968); Model 626 Alogena Floor Lamp (1970); and the Flash Lamp (1970s). After the premature death of Colombo in 1971, Oluce named their first indoor halogen light Colombo 626 (1972) in his honor.
Sometime during the early 1970s, the Verderi family gained control of Oluce. Around this time designer Vico Magistretti (1920-2006)—who was one of Italy’s most respected designers and a driving force in Italian design from the 1960s onwards—was appointed Art Director and chief designer, a position he maintained for many years. Iconic designs from Magistretti include the Dim 333 Floor Lamp (1975), Sonora Pendant (1976), the geometrically constructed Model 233 Atollo Table Lamp (1977, Compasso d’Oro 1979), and the Slalom Table Lamp (1981).
In 1992, Oluce hired the emergent Swiss designer Hannes Wettstein (1958-2008) as Art Director, followed by Marco Romanelli in 1995, who brought in a series international contemporary designers to update the company’s collections. Recent collaborators include designers Sebastian Bergne, Fernando and Humberto Campana, Toni Cordero, Toshiyuki Kita, Nendo, and Hans Peter Weidmann.
Many of Oluce’s designs have been acquired by important museums around the world, including MoMA New York, in Munich, the Milan Triennale, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Kunstmuseum in Düsseldorf.
* Images courtesy of Oluce