Halogen bulbs revolutionised home lighting

Richard Sapper ‘Tizio’ Table Lamp Artemide, Italy, 1972
Richard Sapper ‘Tizio’ Table Lamp Artemide, Italy, 1972

The halogen bulb is the first new invention to completely transform the lighting industry since Thomas Alva Edison succeeded in creating the incandescent lamp by successfully making a loop of carbonized cotton thread glow in a vacuum for 40 hours.

Arrived in the 1970s

It made its way into homes in the early 1970s as the driving force behind the svelte Tizio lamp, accompanied by a barrage of accolades praising its flawless design and an ideal functionality. It quickly evolved into the silicon chip of lighting, fundamentally altering the design of ordinary lamps in the same way that chips did for computers.

Xenon halogen lamp (105 W) for replacement purposes with an E27 screw base
Xenon halogen lamp (105 W) for replacement purposes with an E27 screw base

Benefits: lower cost

The accomplishments of this supreme lighting device are now legendary. It can generate 10 times as much light as an incandescent bulb. A 100-watt halogen bulb, 2.5 by.25 inches in size, produces 1,800 lumens, compared to a 100-watt incandescent bulb that is about 4.5 inches long and 2.25 inches in diameter. It lasts up to seven times longer than its bigger brother while using roughly half the power and producing half the heat.

Design greatest impact

The tiny, adaptable halogen has, however, had the greatest influence on design. Lamps are no longer clunky necessities that test the creativity of designers. Recessed halogen lighting works well in small spaces, and a single halogen torchiere illuminates an entire room. Modern halogen lamps are sculptural, functional works of art often suitable for museum collections.

However, the super bulb’s early years were modest. E.H. Wiley and, E.G. Fridrich, two General Electric scientists in Cleveland, created the mini bulb for home use in 1959. The bulb was first filled with halogens, including iodine, fluorine, chlorine, bromine, and astatine.

Before marching triumphantly into the home, the halogen bulb spent a dozen obscure years illuminating two American institutions: football fields and parking lots.

Italian Designers transform the Halogen.

It was the Italians who first made this American invention a household star. Richard Sapper, the designer of the celebrated Tizio lamp, pleads necessity. Sapper produced the sleek Tizio for Artemide in 1971. He says he designed it “because I needed a good work lamp for myself.”

As elegant and gracefully balanced as an Alexander Calder mobile, the Tizio has become a coveted symbol of the ’80s. New York City’s Museum of Modern Art included the Tizio in its permanent collection in 1973, and it remains a top seller, at a price higher than a good armchair, in the museum’s gift shop.

Sapper’s sleek use of the diminutive halogen dynamo spawned remarkable lamps by other Italian designers. Marco Zotta’s precisely balanced Arcobaleno is also in the Museum of Modern Art’s design collection. Achille Castiglioni’s Bip-bip, from Atelier International, has a wire halo perched on a thin stem.

Until recently, most halogen lamps were European imports, but international designers are at the drawing board to reclaim this American Invention.


Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing. https://amzn.to/3ElmSlL

Halogen Lamps – Newspapers.com. (1986, August 7). Newspapers.Com; http://www.newspapers.com. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/106579213/halogen-lamps/


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