PSLab was founded in 2004 in Beirut where it is headquartered, with offices in Stuttgart, Bologna, Amsterdam, Dubai and Singapore, run by the considerable expertise the company has developed in its localized design and production facilities in Lebanon and overseas. Its workforce, composed of creative, production and management professionals, creates the backbone of its service-savvy setup advocating a context-specific design.
The design and manufacturing company is mostly known for their international projects which include custom-made technical and sculptural lighting objects in collaboration with architects and designers of an international calibre.
Based in Beirut with a team comprising over 100 people including three more offices in Europe, you have evolved to an awarded, international brand. Tell us how PSLab began, what brought the founders together?
Back in 2004, we saw a demand for a tailor-made | context specific approach to lighting. Since we come from the lighting industry (PS, Projects & Supplies), our original family business, and had a metal manufacturing factory, we were able to develop this niche approach.
From Machado and Salvetti and the Floating LED Lights to Studio Job and the JANE restaurant, you have had numerous collaborations with architects and designers. Have these collaborations changed your design process?
Our work is based on a strong dialogue, that is created from a space and its needs. Every new collaboration, new project is a challenge, a new adventure. To be where we are today we learnt through trials and errors, one project at a time. We often need to lose balance to find it and those numerous collaborations helped along the way.
Do you prefer working on a project from conception, or coming in at it at a later stage, when it has “breathed” a bit first?
PSLab is concerned with the design and manufacturing details of a product but especially with its correct placement and use within a project. Our products are often a solution to an architectural or personal lighting need. These solutions might need special structural requirements, hence the necessity of our early stage intervention.
Your beautiful one-off works tend to stand out, in terms of craftsmanship as well. How close do you work with your own artisans?
We have a fascination for the materials, the craft and the technique. Our in-house production is based on unique manufacturing skills and tradition. Our items are hand finished with an attention to details, producing objects of permanent value.
How do you keep an object poetic against the reality of materialisation that can sometimes dim an idea?
We do not follow the standards of the lighting industry. Our approach is project specific therefore we do not believe in an anonymous, off-the-shelf approach.
Each project becomes a product. Each product becomes a story.
Do you agree with the characterisation “playful monumentality”, ultimately drawn by a distinct lightness in your robust forms?
We agree with the lightness in our robust forms but not with the monumentality.
The last hundred years have witnessed the devaluation of monumentality. Recent monuments are often empty shells, no longer representing the collective feeling of modern times.
This decline and misuse of monumentality is the principal reason why modern architects have deliberately revolted against monuments.
For modern architects, buildings cannot be conceived as isolated units. They have to be incorporated into the vaster urban schemes; the correlation between them is necessary. We strive to achieve that correlation between our designs and the space.
Where do you draw inspiration from, nowadays?
The space, the players, past designs, our library, new technologies, travel and even nature. Sources of inspiration are endless.
Politics and design; many see a relation between the two. Can aesthetics change the world?
We are not much of design activist. We exist to evoke human emotions and experiences, through the creation of personalized lighting projects. We can’t do everything, but we will try anything.
But yes, taking a broader look at design, it can solve problems | on a case-by-case basis, globally. Good design can change the reality of people, by studying what is lacking, creating solutions, prototyping those ideas and making them reality.
Warren Berger wrote: ‘ design is a way of looking at the world with an eye towards changing it ‘. New and improved technologies have increased connectivity, creating a global audience, a class of citizen designers finding solutions to our day-to-day needs.
Text: Maria Kalapanida, architect MA AADipl
The selected images in line of presentation are from the following PSLab projects:
- Aesop store in Melbourne (collaboration with Kerstin Thompson Architects)
- Hocklisten Wine Cellar in Switzerland (in collaboration with Zech Architektur)
- Le BonBon Bar and Restaurant in Mainz, Germany (with FORMAAT architects)
- Stereokitchen in Beirut, Lebanon (with Paul Kaloustian)
- THE JANE, Restaurant in Antwerp, Belgium (with Piet Boon design company)
- The Victoria Theater and Concert Hall in Singapore (with W Architects and LPA)