Partisans Bends Light to Create the Ghostly Gweilo

Azure visited Toronto architecture and design firm Partisans to film the making of its innovative Gweilo light ahead of its launch at the Interior Design Show. Here’s a sneak peek at what the studio will be making live at the show, which kicks off in Toronto on January 19.

In its raw form, the Gweilo light isn’t much more than a sheet of clear acrylic. But after undergoing Partisans’ in-house production process, it transforms into something else entirely, becoming a sculpted object that looks almost like solidified liquid. Once lit, it’s ethereal, and spooky.

“We’re transforming light at its source,” is how Partisans’ co-founder Alex Josephson describes the free-formed Gweilo. “They reinvent the source of light as sculpture.”

Indeed, the process is sculptural. Azure spent a few hours earlier this week at the Partisans studio, filming their making. Using a thermoforming process, Josephson and his team take optical-grade acrylic sheets and heat them to nearly 400 degrees, until the plastic becomes pliable. They then hand-sculpt the panes, forming beautiful waves and bends that set in place as the plastic cools. The panels, which are embedded with a fine-spun grid of tiny LED bulbs, are then placed in a custom-made extrusion.

Partisans is best known for its architectural work, including Toronto’s Bar Raval, which garnered accolades from the design world (and from tapas fans) for its curvaceous interior made of CNC’d mahogany. Josephson created the first Gweilo lights initially as an experimental luminary installation almost three years ago. In 2016, Azure awarded those prototypes with an AZ Award for Best Lighting Installation.

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Now, in partnership with LightForm, the studio is turning the luminaire into a market-ready product with a family of Gweilo lights, ranging from desktop scale (25 to 50 centimetres tall), to floor lamps that stand over a metre-and-a-half tall.

The custom-built light is being launched next week in Toronto, with a “live-forming” performance and display at the Interior Design Show, January 19 to 22, 2017. Architect Omar Gandhi, sculptor Harley Valentine and designer Tommy Smythe will join the Partisans team in creating the lights; the proceeds of the guest-created Gweilos will be donated to Habitat for Humanity.

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