Incandescent lighting is so taken-for-granted in contemporary culture that most of us have no idea how much energy we use when we flip a light switch. Boiler Design Office wants to change this with their experimental Protea Lamp – a lamp which changes shape based on how hot the bulb gets.

The Protea lamp is thermotropic: meaning it moves away from heat. When the light is off, the petal-like lampshade is cold and closed around the bulb. When the lamp is turned on and heats up, the thermotropic petals gradually move away from the hot bulb – opening up like a flower in the sunshine.

Designer Karl Zahn views this project as an experiment in turning an invisible artifact of consumption into a visual reminder, without limiting its function:

We have become dependant upon artificial lighting. It is so commonplace that everyone understands how to operate one. But what is not so easily understood is how wasteful these habits are. We can only “see” half of what a normal incandescent bulb produces; the rest of its energy is released as seemingly useless heat.

The Protea lamp is named for the Proteaceae group of flowers which change their shape during the day based on sunlight.

We think this is a perfect combination of thoughtfulness, uniqueness and beauty in design and applaud Karl Zahn for coming up with such a great idea.

$150 from Boiler Design Office

Related Posts


or your inhabitat account below


  1. angie June 1, 2006 at 6:25 pm

    Everyone who is suspicious of “overlapping” design ideas should read The Tipping Point. Sometimes people copy each other, and sometimes it’s just the “right time” for a certain idea to make sense.

  2. dug May 31, 2006 at 5:06 pm

    please use energy efficient cf or led bulbs and make this play on inefficient lighting obsolete.

  3. karl zahn May 31, 2006 at 2:13 am

    hello there

    a friend told me i was posted on your site and id love to comment.

    as far as the “kudos” i dont think trying to figure out who was first is necessary. the material is some 60 years old and i am positive someone thought to make a light out of it by now. though it is difficult to find and somewhat cost prohibitive. but i feel that in todays more environmentally concious society – these kinds of products may find a larger audience. it appears as though Nendo and I had the same idea at about the same time – though i have been working with this off and on since 2003. and while the Static flower lamp is beautiful, im not sure it even works (ive only seen a conceptual model). my intentions were to explore the material and the very first, most obvious solution was to form a simple flower around the bulb. This is not perhaps the most practical lamp, but for me it was a step in a direction i am trying to get more people interested in.

    the response has been great and i hope to have the next prototypes ready to show soon on the website

    thanks again for the posting

  4. greg b May 30, 2006 at 6:18 pm

    The earliest reference I’m aware of is 1949 by J. Muir


    and more recently

  5. Greg May 30, 2006 at 3:01 pm


    Let me throw in another *similar* design.

    In situations like these, I’d really like to know who deserves the kudos for the original idea and who, well, doesn’t.

    The internet. A million eyes, one mind. Nothing will go undetected…

  6. Takumi May 30, 2006 at 11:21 am

    Hi there.

    I thought I’d mention another lamp, pretty much identical to Protea Lamp, by nendo called “hanabi”.

    It seems to me that this kind of unique and great idea is less likely to be coneived at the same time, or am I being too suspicious?!

    Anyway, thank you for the great posts everytime. :)

  7. Wendy May 30, 2006 at 6:14 am

    While I applaud Zahn for aiming to remind people that lightbulbs lose a lot of energy as heat, it seems as if the interaction here is at odds with the message. It is almost as if you’re rewarded (with a prettier lamp) for turning on the light, for using a hotter bulb as opposed to a cooler, more efficient one. If the reward occurred when you turned off the light or reduced your energy usage, that would make the lamp just about perfect.

    The Static! project at the Interactive Institute has a “Flower lamp” ( that is quite similar but seems to work the opposite way, where you make the flower open up and be more beautiful by decreasing your energy usage.

    But I guess the Protea is much more functional than Static’s effort — unless everyone is happy to view their blooming flower lamp in the dark!

  • Read Inhabitat

  • Search Categories

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

  • Browse by Keyword

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
Federated Media Publishing - Home