“Future comes by itself, progress does not.” -Poul Henningsen
Poul Henningsen—most known simply by his initials, PH—was an architect, author and critic, but his greatest contributions came by way of lighting.
His search to create the perfect light began in the early 1920s. Henningsen carefully analyzed reflecting and baffling light rays from light bulbs to achieve just what he wanted: uniform and glare-free illumination. His original design ensured that the light source could not be seen, so the illumination was comfortable and easy on the eyes.
Henningsen’s lighting were born out of a genuine sense of indignation. Henningsen said that “glare is a fundamental problem with the electric light bulb.” His mission to create “perfect, glare-free light” led to iconic pieces such as the PH 5 Pendant, the PH Snowball Pendant and the legendary PH Artichoke Pendant.
Here are 10 things you might not know about Louis Poulsen’s most famous collection:
1. The Koldinghus Museum in Copenhagen recently completed an exhibition of PH’s work, which includes the entire PH lighting collection (over 100 different fixtures!) Image via
2. PH’s driving motivation in the lighting he created was to “tame the bright glow from the light bulb.”
3. PH’s first fixture was created in 1924. He worked with Louis Poulsen in an international exhibition for decorative art (Henningsen won a competition that was held to find qualified participants). He took home a gold medal at the exhibition, and soon after, LP began marketing the three-shade light in its first lighting catalog.
4. Henningsen believed that the illumination from a lamp should reflect that of the daylight that comes and goes throughout the day. He explains more about this comparison in the video below:
5. The original PH 5 Pendant came in wet painted white only. Over the years, colors were added: Army Green, Pale Rose, Dark Grey and White with Pale Rose. Then additional finishes became available to commemorate various points in the life of the design and Henningsen himself.
6. The classic PH 5 (above) gets its name from the diameter of the top shade, which is 50cm.
7. While the design follows its original specifications set by Henningsen, the PH Series has been updated with a high gloss finish and an option with aluminum struts.
8. Since Henningsen’s very first PH Lamp, more than 15 new iterations have been born based off of his original design, including wall lights and outdoor fixtures.
9. Perhaps the most famous and iconic PH invention is the Artichoke, created in 1958 and considered Henningsen’s masterpiece. It is a structure made of 12 steel arches, with 72 copper ‘leaves’ in 12 circular rows, with six blades in each row. Because each row is staggered from the next, all 72 leaves are able to “cover for each other” as PH said. That hallmark Henningsen design allows the fixture to be viewed from any angle without seeing the light source.
10. The original PH Artichokes were developed for a restaurant in Copenhagen called the Langelinie Pavillion (pictured above in 1958). Those original fixtures would still be there today if it weren’t for a thief who cut them down in the middle of the night. Since the lamp is still in production, the lamps were replaced with new ones.