Ango Gets “Well Lit”



Ango is a Thailand-based design company. Founded in 2003, it specializes in light fixtures that are ecological, wondrous and highly functional. Some fixtures are designed using a seaweed polymer. Ango also makes chairs, benches and luminescent household objects. Here, Angus Hutcheson, chief designer for the company talks about Ango’s collections and process.

Life+Times: What are your goals when you set out to design a new line of lighting?
Angus Hutcheson
: The key objective is finding the place where the magic of light intersects with new materials and production processes to create something special. Then, I think there’s always a strong element of continuity, so it might be a new collection using a different material or technique. Each piece is a step forward with a new process that we’ve innovated and reinforces and validates the previous ones.

L+T: What are some of the materials you’re currently working?
: The materials we work with are generally either found natural materials, or composite and natural ones developed by experimentation, which are then used to create a lighting piece or installation, and the decision to go ahead and use each material is made after testing and observing how they diffuse light in different ways. At the moment, we’re very much focused on developing a polymer derived totally from seaweed that has an amazing translucence and was first shown at Maison et Objet show in Paris this past September. We’re also hard at work on perfecting a clay-like bio polymer that has great sculptural qualities and creates really good light diffusion.

L+T: What’s your design process like?
: We generally work together in a quite loose open-ended way, more like a continual experiment, and at any one time, there are ideas for quite a few designs, from which we try to pick out the strongest ones, which are developed in parallel with each other. Early development is in the form of sketches, drawings, models, rough prototypes. But developing a light design is rarely that straight forward, more something of a push pull process between the concept, the design process, and the technique and materials being put into play, so inevitably there is feedback between these back into the design. In our case, where we are usually creating pieces using different types of hand made production, this loop is I think especially prevalent. Lighting spans a pretty wide spectrum from really pure design for a specific and localized task (such as medical lighting) right across the spectrum into fine art, and clearly you’re applying different criteria as you cross the range. But I think the told truths as originally summarized by Vitruvius, the first Century BC commentator on architecture hold true in any design: truth/integrity (firmitas), functionality (utilitas) and delight (venustas). One loose criterion is that the piece to be a real light that produces real illumination!

L+T: What are the themes for your latest collection?
: Right now we’re focused on the collections we’ll unveil at Light and Building show in Frankfurt in April 2012, and while it’s a little early to say exactly what they’ll consist of, the themes are: Ascendancy is an ascending series of interlinked pieces to create pagoda like towers of light. Frozen water (feature) new designs in our seaweed polymer to create shimmering iridescent globes of light

L+T: How will lighting change in the future?
: It’s clear the lighting industry’s been undergoing a major shift in the move away from tungsten light sources to low energy light sources, and this makes for exciting times for us, especially when the new lighting technology is well intermeshed with our diffuser materials. At the moment, its an interesting conundrum as much lighting is still based around a powerful light source with a diffuser to modulate it, while LED (light emitting diode) light sources are quite concentrated and small, and usually set out in closely packed arrays. Then the OLED (organic light emitting diode) light sources that are being developed now will act as large-scale very thin light sources with no focused center, and so will be a total break with the past, and offer great potential for being integrated with the architectural space that contains them.