by Randy Gragg
Two years ago, seven architects in Portland, Oregon were invited to design chandeliers in collaboration with artisans of the Bullseye Glass Company. Architecture critic Randy Gragg was the curator of the resulting exhibit, "Multiplied Light." Editor
Dictionary defined as a lighting fixture hung from a ceiling with branches for candles or light bulbs, what we call the chandelier, most likely began with a pine knot hung on a strap of skin.
The device proved enduring. Stone and, later, bronze vessels became reservoirs of animal and vegetable oils wicked with rush and hemp. The skin strap evolved into basket-like thongs suspended from decorated frames for an early form of chandelier preserved in Egyptian tombs.
Under the Greeks and Romans, the frames gained filigrees foreshadowing greater ornament to come. In the Middle Ages, the frames grew into armatures for more and more new-fangled wax candles (the word chandelier derives from Old French chandelabre and Latin's candela) with the freshly developed wrought iron becoming a decorative medium for the blacksmith.
In Renaissance Italy, glass vessels debuted, leading to the development of the float lamp (already invented in the Mideast and China). The Baroque introduced grotesques along with the heavy ball dangling from the central shaft, anchoring detachable rows of arms that allowed the hanging fixture to mutate vertically.
In 17th-century London, chandeliers became actors on the stage, lowered to dazzle and distract audiences from the scene changes taking place behind. >>>
With glass slumped to never-before achieved tolerances, DECA attained the desired diffusion with clear glass clouded only by color, thickness, and the chance refractions of bubbles.
Photo: Paul Foster
DECA architects Ellen Fortin, Sallee Humphrey, and David Hyman imagined a recasting of the chandelier's most essential elements: a glowing light in crystalline glass, "a gathering of light."
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