Since 2005, willowlamp has wowed consumers with its breathtaking, innovative sculptural lighting designs. From chandeliers to lamps, standard works to bespoke creations, the Cape Town-based company has added both light and lustre to numerous hotels and restaurants around the world, as well as several private residences and working spaces.
willowlamp’s popularity, both in South Africa and abroad, is a testament to the quality of its products. The company’s light fixtures hang in a variety of prestigious establishments including Mena House Hotel in Cairo, the Melia and Landmark Hotels in London, Ritz-Carlton Hotels in Dubai and Chicago, Switzerland’s Seerose Resort & Spa, the Liwa Executive Suites and the Shangri-La Hotel in Abu Dhabi, the Clarion Post Hotel in Sweden, The George Hotel in Lagos, Angama Mara Lodge in Kenya and Morocco’s Four Seasons Hotel.
The man behind all these achievements is Adam Hoets, creative director and founder of willowlamp. Hoets studied architecture at the University of Cape Town and started his own architecture company immediately afterwards, designing eco-lodges for Wilderness Safaris. Africanism chatted to Adam about his roots in architecture and how this informs his work today with willowlamp.
Can you tell us about your background?
I come from an art-and-craft background, which led me to study and practice architecture. After running my own architecture practice for about five years, during which I specialised in eco-architecture, I stumbled upon the idea that sparked willowlamp. Willowlamp launched in 2005, and has since specialised in innovative sculptural lighting designs.
Where did you study and what qualifications did you receive?
I studied architecture at the University of Cape Town. After traveling across Africa, I decided to start my own architecture company. I designed eco-lodges for various clients including the prestigous Southern African eco-tourism operator Wilderness Safaris. I owe my creative impulses to an innate predilection for art in various forms, and to the environment in which I grew up. Not only was I surrounded by a host of artists, craftsmen and intellectuals, but my home included a pottery studio, workshop and forest garden, all of which let me exercise my own creativity.
How did you get involved in architecture?
My journey as an artist and designer began with architecture. Architecture shaped my ‘design’ mind in ways that were quite invaluable. I was originally torn between fine art and architecture. I chose architecture as I could be both an architect and an artist. Had I picked art, I could not have practiced architecture as well.
And how did the jump from architecture to Willowlamp come about?
I made the gradual transition from architecture to lighting design in 2005. The shift was due, in part, to my goal of developing a marketable design-related product, whose creation was not hindered by the nature of the client-designer relationship. I feel that this relationship can often limit the designer’s ability to explore his or her own ideas.
How do you believe your training as an architect has impacted your outlook on lighting?
Architecture is a fantastic grounding for a creative individual because it is a discipline that teaches one to think and approach problems in a way that is very particular and rationally structured. More than any other design/art discipline, architecture is also all-encompassing. As an architect, one has to reconcile a huge set of often opposing ideas and forces and bring together multiple ideas, disciplines and requirements in a cohesive whole. I always say that an architect is part artist, part engineer, part psychologist, part spatial social activist, part designer, part fashionista, part town planner, and on and on… This gives the architect a tremendous grounding as well as a broad understanding, meaning one can end up in all sorts of unlikely places and careers.
Can you name some of your favourite projects where Willowlamp has been involved?
Willowlamp has been involved in many projects. The most ambitious and challenging project to date, however, was the installation of a set of four three-tonne chandeliers at Perth’s Crown Towers Hotel, which opened in December 2016. This project, which took three years to complete, has become one of willowlamp’s proudest accomplishments. The project came second in the category of Best Use of Decorative Lighting in a Hotel Project at the international darc awards (decorative) in May 2017. Willowlamp has won several accolades, including three consecutive Elle Deco International Design Awards, a SABS Design Excellence Award, Best Lighting Design at 100% Design South Africa 2014 and a 2017 Design Foundation Award for ‘an object that moves’.
Where do you see architecture and lighting moving in the next decade?
I would not like to speculate on what one would term ‘trends’. What I would like to see, though, is more architectural spaces that recognise the importance of beautiful lighting, including centerpieces that transform a space from the ordinary into the extra-ordinary and magical.