Dezeen Magazine

Candleholders by contemporary designers

Contemporary designers create one-off candle holders for A Flame for Research charity project

Designers including Patricia Urquiola, Jaime Hayon and Marcel Wanders have created metal candle holders for a project to raise funds for cancer research, which is currently on show at Milan design week.

Urquiola, HayonMichele de Lucchi, Philippe MalouinLuca Nichetto and Matteo Thun designed one piece each for the A Flame for Research charity project.

Patricia Urquiola Hope candleholder
Patricia Urquiola's "Hope" is one of the candleholders designed especially for the project

Panter & Tourron, Marcel Wanders Studio, Federica Biasi and Alberto and Francesco Meda also took part in the project, which was initiated by Daniele Mingardo.

Mingardo, who founded the Mingardo metal design brand in 2013, worked together with curator Federica Sala and Mingardo art director Federica Biasi to get the 10 contemporary product and industrial designers involved.

The finished works include a sculpture-like candelabra by Hayon and a design by Wanders that combines an electric light with a candleholder.

Philippe Malouin design for A Flame for Research
London's chimneys and industrial tower informed Philippe Malouin's design

The pieces will be auctioned off at Christie's with profits going to Italy's Mario Negri Pharmacological Research Institute, which is dedicated to clinical and biomedical research.

Mingardo launched A Flame for Research to help support cancer research after his mother passed away from the disease.

Jaime Hayon face-shaped candelabra
Designer Jaime Hayon's candelabra Instrument N 01 is shaped like a face

He wanted to work with well-known names to ensure there was as much interest in the A Flame for Research project as possible and help raise as much money for it as he could.

"We thought if the names were bigger it would be more appealing and interesting for collectors to buy," curator Sala told Dezeen.

"We also chose these designers because apart from Philippe Malouin, who had already done collaborations with galleries and created special collections, all the others – more or less – are furniture and industrial designers, so there aren't a lot of unique pieces made by them in existence."

Alberto and Francesco Meda's design for A Flame for Research
Two steel sheets form a candleholder by Alberto and Francesco Meda

The designers were given a free hand to come up with any candleholder design they wanted. These were then created in the Mingardo blacksmith workshop, which was founded by Mingardo's father in 1970.

As the pieces were produced during the coronavirus pandemic, it was a time-consuming process, in which the designers sent sketches that Mingardo turned into prototypes before sending them back for the designers to check.

It also created a challenge for Mingardo, as some of the designs were unlike anything his workshop had produced before.

Marcel Wanders studio Cu-Cou light for A Flame for Research
Electric light is combined with candles in Marcel Wanders studio's Cu-Cou light

"Daniele actually learned a lot of new techniques for the pieces he had to produce; for example for Marcel Wanders' copper candleholder – he had to buy a new machine and learn how to use it," Sala said.

"The texture is like dusted ceramic and you need a special machine for that."

The only parameters given to the designers were the size of the pieces and that they had to be all made from metal, rather than a combination of metal and other materials. The resulting designs drew on a wide range of inspirations.

While Malouin's large bright-green double candleholder references the chimneys and industrial towers of suburban London, Nichetto created a shielded holder shaped like the "edicole" wayside alcoves that function as shrines in Italy.

Luca Nichetto Edicola
Italy's "Edicola" shrines informed Luca Nichetto's candleholder

Thun's circular candleholder also has a religious significance.

"Matteo wanted to dedicate this flame to Saint Agatha [the city saint for Catania, Sicily]," Benedetto Fasciana, who works on special handcrafted projects at Matteo Thun, told Dezeen.

Sant'Agata by Matteo Thun
The patron saint of Catania was the inspiration behind Matteo Thun's piece

"The metal is brass, with an engraved brise-soleil finishing to represent the sun," he added. "The holder is very minimal – we wanted to represent the typical Saint Agatha candles, which can be as tall as one meter. We also used Sicilian candles in the holder."

The 10 designs are currently on show as part of Milan design week and will be auctioned off at Christie's Italia on 15 September.

Federica Biasi candleholder for A Flame for Research
Candleholder by Federica Biasi

Mingardo hopes the sales can help other people who have been affected by cancer.

"To empower research is to have a sign of hope for everybody – if you support research, you can support hope," Mingardo told Dezeen.

"I hoped that this experience that was really bad for me could turn into something positive for someone else."

Other projects on show at this year's edition of Milan design week include pieces by emerging Italian designers created in response to Rick Owens' work and a power-cut resilient portable incubator.

Photography is by Matteo Imbriani.

A Flame for Research will be on display at Offstage Milano until 10 September as part of Milan design week. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.

More images

Michelle de Lucchi candleholder
Candleholder by Michelle de Lucchi
Panter & Tourron's Focus candleholder
Candleholder by Panter & Tourron
Close-up of Patricia Urquoila candleholder
Candleholder by Federica Biasi