The question of who designed the light known as the Søværnspendel has been the subject of much debate in recent years, with opinion divided between those who believe it to be a Jørn Utzon creation and those who say it was designed by the Danish Navy. The issue is complicated by the fact that there are three versions of the light – one produced by Louis Poulsen (first image below) and the other two by Nordisk Solar Compagni (second and third images below).
The Louis Poulsen production gives the light its Søværnspendel name by which both Poulsen and Nordisk Solar Compagni versions are generally known. Søværnspendel means Navy Pendant, and the designer of the Louis Poulsen Søværnspendel is listed in a 1967 catalogue as the Søværnets Bygningsdistrikt (Navy Buildings Department).
It is the Nordisk Solar version to which Jørn Utzon’s name has often been attached, and the source for this attribution is usually given as a 1956 edition of Mobilia. Sure enough, the light appears in the July 1956 issue of that magazine, accompanied by the following text:
Lamps constitute a field that has been rather neglected by designers. Architect Jørn Utzon, who is particularly well known for his houses, has designed quite a few lamps. We bring here a few of them. The top one is entirely of lacquered metal, the bottom one is metal on the outside and opal glass inside.
However, this attribution is thrown into confusion by the August issue of the magazine, in an erratum entitled “We did a mistake”, which reads:
In the July issue we discussed some lamps designed by architect Jørgen Utzon. The lamp shown here was also supposed to have been mentioned, but because of a mistake it became mixed up with another lamp which was not designed by architect Jørgen Utzon – which was pictured at the bottom of page 23. Here we bring the right one, excuse us.
Unfortunately it is less than entirely clear which of the two lights pictured at the bottom of the page in the July issue is being referred to in the erratum as “not designed by architect Jørgen Utzon”. We are left to draw our own conclusions. On the one hand, the July page referred to the “bottom” light as being metal and opal glass, which would indicate the lamp pictured to the bottom right. But while we at vintage-danish-lights.com are not familiar with that specific light design (see close-up view below), it looks as if it might be a member of the Terrazze family, illustrated in the 1958–1959 edition of The Studio Year Book of Furnishing & Decoration and reproduced in Taschen’s Decorative Arts 1950s (final image below).
On balance, we tend towards concluding that it probably is the Søværnspendel that is being denied as an Utzon design. But if this is the correct conclusion, the question remains: who did design the Nordisk Solar Compagni light? Ulf Hard af Segerstad’s 1961 book Scandinavian Design tells us that Nordisk Solar Compagni’s lighting in the 1950s was designed by architects Max Bruel, Sven Middelboe and Jørn Utzon, and if Utzon is indeed ruled out, our money is on Sven Middelboe. If anyone can clear up this enduring mystery, we’d love to hear from them. Please leave a comment or email us at email@example.com.
UPDATE: A Danish-speaking reader has kindly brought to our attention some subtleties in the Danish version of the Mobilia texts that have been omitted from the English translations printed in the magazine, and which confirm that the Søværnspendel is the lamp being referred to as not designed by Utzon. Our reader writes:
Firstly, the Danish text on the first page says, “Den øverste helt udført af lakeret metal, de NEDERSTE af metal udvendig og opal glas indvendig”, which should be translated as, “The top one is entirely of lacquered metal, the BOTTOM ONES [ie, plural not singular] are metal on the outside and opal glass on the inside.” This means that the lamps that were planned to be illustrated were both made of metal and glass (like the lamp on the right), which the Søværnspendel is not, of course.
Secondly the Danish text in the erratum states that the lamp which was not designed by architect Jørn Utzon “stod nederst til VENSTRE på side”, which should correctly be translated as “was shown AT BOTTOM LEFT of the page”. This clearly means that it is the lamp to the left that is not designed by Utzon (ie the Søværnspendel).