The name Poul Henningsen (1894–1967), or PH as he is perhaps better known, has become synonymous with Danish lighting design. PH originally trained as an architect at The Copenhagen College of Technology. He was a self taught inventor, and through his writings known as a sharp critic of art, architecture and society.
PH grew up in the soft glow of the petroleum lamp. As electrical lighting gained way in the early 1920’s PH struggled with the blinding glare from the electric bulb. He began to develop a lamp that would have the same soft, relaxing qualities of the petroleum lamp. The result of his efforts emerged in 1926 — a 3-shade lamp soon to be known simply as the PH lamp.
The curvature and position of the three shades perfectly determined the distribution of light directing it down upon the table. At the same time the glass shades allowed the light to fill the room, avoiding a harsh contrast between the illumination of the table and the walls. Different kinds of coloured glass shades with matt frosted surfaces ensured that the lamp radiated a golden tone and cast a harmonious shadow.
The hanging lamp was soon joined by table lamps, floor lamps, chandeliers and wall mounted lamps all with the 3-shade design. The shades were now also available in metal and glass with various degrees of transparency and a variety of colours. PH was succeeding in his project — the PH lamp was becoming a household name.
To this day the PH lamp remains one of the finest attempts to design the perfect incandescent lamp fitting. What was perceived as a radical new way of thinking in terms of both technology and design, today still shows us what good lighting is — in a design that is still absolutely modern.
At his death in 1967 Poul Henningsen had designed more than 100 lamps.