GUBI revives a forgotten design | Read about Bill Curry’s Obello here

10 March 2022
GUBI revives a forgotten design | Read about Bill Curry’s Obello here
The lamp’s name is Obello, and it’s made of a single piece of glass. The glass is blown, and looking at the lamp, the impeccable quality and attention to detail are unmistakeable. Meanwhile, the construction that uses a single piece of glass means that the whimsical glow from the lamp meanders out of the lampshade and down the foot, creating a cohesive and streamlined expression. The shape was inspired by a mushroom, and the natural element is a key contributor to the lamp’s futuristic appearance.

A lamp that doesn’t follow the traditional base-plus-lampshade format is known as a total look lamp. As this lamp was designed in 1970, the concept was still new and revolutionary, but even in 2022, the shape seems like something you would find onboard a spaceship. That said, neither the futuristic design nor the total look format are surprising when you consider who designed the lamp.

From a founding father of LA Space Pop to GUBI

The 1960s were an incredible time for North America. Technology was growing by leaps and bounds and the post-war era witnessed a host of innovative and, at the time, unthinkable inventions and feats. The US military slowly started working on the internet, the first weather satellite finished a circuit around the earth, and Aldrin, Collins, and Armstrong returned from their successful moon landing on July 24th, 1969.

Nuclear families moved out into the suburbs with well-watered lawns and white picket fences, and American culture spread across the ocean with the rest of the world watching Yankee life with its technology, culture, and the mouse with the white gloves. With Martin Luther King Jr., Bob Dylan, and Muhammad Ali, everything seemed possible in the US in the 1960s.

In a bungalow near LAX, Billy Curry sits and watches jets. The legendary designer with a history in the Navy, a degree from ArtCenter College of Design, and experience in the advertising and airline industries designs lamps during a time with constant excitement under the surface. With the future at the forefront of his mind, he puts his pen to paper and captures the zeitgeist in his most popular design: Stemlite, which GUBI has also relaunched.

With a single lamp, Bill Curry summarises and encapsulates the spirit of the time. Stemlite is the first true total look lamp, and it takes the world by storm. Its unique shape looks like something you would find in the control centre of a spaceship, and so it finds its way to the sets of some of the greatest sci-fi adventures of the time, including Star Trek.

New shapes and models are added to the Stemlite collection on a rolling basis until Bill Curry dies at the age of just 43 in 1971. Curry was described as one of California’s leading designers, and his designs were used as an example of American quality at exhibitions in the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Iraq.

A forgotten design: revived and refined

In collaboration with Curry’s family, the Danish brand GUBI—also responsible for relaunching the legendary Stemlite—have gained access to never-before-seen sketches from Bill Curry himself. The lamp he designed was a prototype in the early stages—so early that it didn’t even have a name yet.

GUBI works with the transitional space that has grown out of the pandemic with more people working from home and having greater workplace freedom—the transition between indoors and outdoors; between home, commute, and work. The brand fell in love with the design that Bill Curry created over half a century ago, like a dream about the future from the distant past. The dream looked like a sci-fi film in the 1960s, but it’s the reality in the distant year 2022—a testament to Curry’s time and how much, and at the same time little, we have achieved since.

This dream of the future has been given a modern makeover with rechargeable batteries to make the lamp portable. Bring it outside on a summer evening, and turn up the adjustable LED light as the sun begins to set and darkness falls. The lovely mushroom shape protects the built-in battery and light source against sun, sand, and water, so Obello will hold its own out in the garden, even on a rainy day.