Golden Bell Pendant LightBy Alvar Aalto
Originally crafted from a single piece of brass, the Golden Bell pendant light was named for the “golden” reflections it casts as well as its recognizable shape. Finnish architect and furniture maker Alvar Aalto (1898–1976) and his wife, Aino (1894–1949) — also an architect and pioneering designer — created the streamlined ceiling light in 1937 as part of a full interior design commission for Helsinki’s luxurious Savoy restaurant. The fixture was exhibited to wide acclaim later that year in the Finnish Pavilion of the Paris World Expo.
Alvar Aalto trained as an architect and developed a successful practice early in his career, securing commissions in his native country and abroad, and earning an international reputation. The celebrated 1933 Paimio Sanatorium in Finland, codesigned with Aino, and 1948 Baker House at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are among his more renowned works. While some components of the sanatorium project reflected a Bauhaus influence — primarily in the chairs that the Aaltos designed with tubular steel — Alvar maintained an interest in natural materials, usually prioritizing working with wood over metal.
In 1935, Alvar and his wife were among the founders of furniture manufacturer Artek (“art and technology”), which produced furnishings for his architectural commissions such as the Savoy. Artek manufactured Alvar’s ubiquitous Stool 60 as well as the couple’s Paimio armchair, the construction of both owing to a revolutionary bentwood technique Alvar pioneered, along with a litany of other utilitarian designs that often tested the limits of wood while retaining warmth and sculptural quality. Similarly, the unadorned and charming Golden Bell pendant light is closer to sculpture than it is to a light fixture.
One of the important early works of Scandinavian modern design, the Golden Bell epitomizes the movement’s merging of meticulous craftsmanship and attention to materials to produce freer, more organic forms. The simple handspun pendant, which features perforated detail around the rim that prevents glare, has remained in production at Artek since its inception. Today, the single-piece structure is available in steel in addition to brass. A Golden Bell “Savoy” edition, introduced in 2017, is manufactured without a coating so that it begins to gain a patina immediately after production. The oxidation process lends it the humble timelessness that has long been attributed to the original Golden Bell pendant lights, which still hang in the Savoy restaurant today.
Alvar Aalto Golden Bell Pendant Light
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