Dear Design Diary,
I’m not exactly sure how I came across the sublime work of Goula/Figuera. Maybe it was Instagram. Maybe it was somewhere online. But I remember immediately losing my mind over it. The Barcelona-based team of Álvaro Goula and Pablo Figuera are doing something that I think is unprecendented and unparalleled in today’s world of lighting. They’re making works of art that have a functional illuminating purpose. Their pieces are playful and sophisticated at once and it’s impossible for me to look at them without thinking of one of my favorite artists, Joan Miró. Their work isn’t derivative, it has a sensibility and physicality that has very much to do with contemporary life, but it’s undeniable that modern art had a huge influence on the distinctive geometry and color of these gorgeous lamps.n
I took my first trip to Barcelona in August (I’ll be doing a little write up about it in the coming weeks). The second I booked my flight, I knew I wanted to meet the creative geniuses behind Goula/Figuera. So, like the creepy weirdo I am, I reached out via Instagram direct messaging and got a response. Then I basically invited myself to their studio to check out their work in person and ask them about their process. Unfortunately Pablo Figuera was out of town, but Álvaro Goula showed me around and chatted with me about their process. It was the most exciting day in all of our lives.
Each Goula/Figuera sculpture is handmade by craftsmen in Barcelona. The intersecting lines are hand-welded onto the pre-made hoops and then the whole thing is sanded and powder coated. The result is something that looks like an exquisite doodle come to life.
I love nothing more than looking into artists’ sketchbooks to see what ideas lead to their final product. Álvaro was kind enough to let me peep around their studio like a nosy mom who smelled marijuana in her teenage son’s bedroom. COME ON MOM ALL THE KIDS ARE DOING IT!
I’d buy each and every one of these concept sketches as a lamp. And then I’d take one of the lamps to the Academy Awards as my date when I win best actor and everyone on the red carpet will be all “Lamp! Lamp! Who are you wearing!”
Goula/Figuera’s studio was under construction while we were there. They’ve just moved from a more warehousey part of Barcelona to a fancy district that is quiet where they were able to find a beautiful studio space for cheaper than in the more artist-dense area (I guess it’s getting too trendy or something).
In addition to beautiful/magical/enthralling lighting, Goula/Figuera also design furniture. I loved leafing through their sketchbook, admiring their concepts for chairs, benches, and other furnishings.
I had never been to Barcelona before and was in love with the adventurous spirit of design there. Unlike other older European cities like Paris, the architecture isn’t uniform and conformist. The buildings are all different and distinct, covered in architectural flourishes, pattern, and bizarre geometry. The innovation behind Goula/Figuera’s work seems directly linked to the city’s history of non-conformist creativity. This is, after all, the city where Gaudí got famous.
These light sculptures can be hung individually or grouped together. I’m sourcing some for a client right now and we’re using a couple because we want to cover more horizontal space but they also look great by themselves in more contained spaces.
You might be wondering where the bulbs are, but these are actually LED and the bulb is hidden within the black canopy at the bottom.
Álvaro Goula, one half of Goula/Figuera.
More sketches and inspiration. Every little scratch in this sketchbook reflected the strong perspective that comes through in the lighting. If I lived in a cartoon world, I’d definitely have Goula/Figuera draw all my furniture, accessories, and lighting.