The din at Lambert & Fils’s Montreal workshop is deafening. Plinking brass bars, whirring power tools and gasping pneumatic hoses get garbled into a primordial techno. For all this sonic chaos, the rigour of the workmanship has helped this maker of sleek contemporary lighting cultivate a reputation for elegant fixtures that walk a line between hand-built and precision-assembled.
The tempo has only increased since founder Samuel Lambert and his team ramped up their European invasion in October 2016 with the unveiling of Laurent – a family of opaline glass globes circumscribed by thin metal supports – at Biennale Interieur in Kortrijk, Belgium. “Kortrijk suited us: It’s small, highly curated, and at the frontier of design and art,” Lambert recalls. “It felt like a homecoming, and being welcomed by an extended design family.”
At Salone del Mobile’s Euroluce lighting fair this spring, Lambert did a teaser release of Mile – a monochrome triangular prism reminiscent of a fluorescent trough light – and promoted a collaboration with up-and-coming Montreal designer Guillaume Sasseville. Though simple, Mile may be the studio’s most advanced design yet, with a direct-drive power source that eliminates the need for an ungainly transformer, and micro-adjustable counterweights that enable multiple fixtures to intersect. This feature is ideal for creating gravity-defying compositions of up- and downlighting. “Milan was just a pre-launch,” Lambert says. “We wanted to confront the object in a real-world setting and observe people’s interactions with it.”
As the company reaches out to the international market, Lambert is neither rushing to embrace technology for technology’s sake nor shying away from it. “We’re all LED now,” he announces, “mais on s’en fout” – downplaying both the importance of technology to the larger goal of making great lighting, and the challenges of working in a highly technical area of design. That’s not to mention the delicate re-engineering required to meet the regulations of new markets across Europe, Asia and Australia. “For a light to look effortless, it can be quite complex behind the scenes,” says Lambert.