In a smaller studio, Poul Henningsen worked as an architect from 1919 and during the years he expanded his field of occupation into areas of writing and also became a journalist and an author. He published his sometimes radical thoughts about art, design, politics, and architecture in various journals and newspapers and his ideas were very influential.
In the 1930’s he was a very active political debate and critic of the cultural environment in Denmark. Like many other creative people during WWII, he and his wife, Inger Henningsen, were forced to flee the country to Sweden during the German occupation of Denmark. Soon he became a vital part of the Danish colony of artists living in Sweden.
Poul Henningsen was not primarily driven by the wish of designing aesthetic lamps, but instead to create the optimal light. He drew the models for his first PH lamps in collaboration with Louis Poulsen in 1924, where he developed the famous three-shade system. Poul Henningsen wanted to create a lampshade that emitted a functional, pleasant, and glare-free light.
He based the three-shade system on a logarithmic spiral to make the optimal use of the light source. The form of the shades was determined by the way he wanted them to shape and reflect the light. From meticulous calculations and an abundance of tests, he created a system that directed a glare free-light to where it was needed the most. The way he functionally utilized the shades was nothing less than revolutionary.
The first shades were made of metal with a painted undersurface. Later on the shades were also made of glass that besides the emission of a downward light also illuminated the room. Poul Henningsen was the first person to pursue a scientific approach to light.
The first PH lamp was launched in 1927 as an alternative to low-pitched hanging lamps. In 1928 Poul Henningsen developed the table lamp PH 3½-2½ Table with a top metal shade and two bottom shades in white opal glass. The work culminated in 1958 with the world-famous pendant PH 5 that immediately became an overwhelming success.
Two other classic designs by Poul Henningsen worth mentioning is PH Hat and PH 80. PH Hat is a wall lamp designed in 1961 with the aim to create a lamp specifically for bedroom lighting.
Poul Henningsen’s lifelong collaboration with Louis Poulsen that began in 1924 lasted until his death. To this day Louis Poulsen still benefits from his genius and his pioneering work remains the foundation of the lighting theories we practice.