An Elegant Lamp Moves Like The Sun, To Regulate Your Melatonin

The Luminarium is a motorized work lamp that runs in 12-hour cycles, mimicking dawn to sunset.

Mounting evidence tells us that our gadgetry–from cellphones to air conditioners–has the potential to do the human body a fair amount of physical damage. Regardless of whether you buy into those arguments (which hint at media sensationalism, in varying degrees), it would be tough to avoid most of these technologies. So, if you’re like me, you allay your fears with rationalizations: “Well, I might sleep next to my iPhone, but at least I don’t smoke!”


Even the most ubiquitous tech, like artificial lighting, can mess with how our bodies function. Artificial light confuses our bodies into thinking it’s still daytime, long after the sun has set. This affects how we secrete melatonin, the hormone that regulates the sleep cycle, and can lead to everything from depression to insomnia. Of course, there’s little to be done, especially if you work in an office.

Young Milanese designer Stefano Pertegato became fascinated with the effects of artificial light during his final year at Politecnico di Milano. “Natural daylight provides resetting cues,” he explains. “Constant, extended stimuli in the background, like the slow play of light and shadows during the day, bring restorative benefits from directed attention fatigue, reducing cognitive stress and improving concentration.” Pertegato wondered if a simple lamp could recreate the effect, recalibrating our bodies to produce serotonin at normal cycles. His thesis project, a kinetic lighting system called The Luminarium, attempts to do just that.

The spindly, motorized work lamp runs on 12-hour cycles, mimicking the movement, intensity, and color of the sun. As it “rises,” three types of fluorescent bulbs mix to recreate the warm, bright sunshine of morning (about 3000°K). Over the course of the day, the light changes from warm to cool, until reaching its peak at 6000°K. Then it shifts back to warm tones again, as sun “sets.” An LED armature, controlled by a set of exposed gears, mimics the movement of the sun.

The Luminarium has the distinct air of a 19th century mechanical contraption, hinting at Pertegato’s interest in remixing outmoded technology–another recent project proposes one-off digital music devices based on the parameters of traditional tape cassettes. And while it certainly isn’t the first lamp designed to replicate natural daylight, it may be the most elegant. Pertegato calls it a “light halo,” drawing on “the intricate delicacy of early clockworks and the dynamism of kinetic art.”

[Images courtesy of Stefano Pertegato]


About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.