How is a vase like a house? From the systemic to the fantastical, with designer Janja Lap
15. 6.—5. 11. 2023
Curators: Špela Šubic and Barbara Predan
The Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO) presents the exhibition How is a vase like a house? From the systemic to the fantastical, with designer Janja Lap, which will open on 8 June and showcase the works of architect and designer Janja Lap. This exceptional artist left the most profound mark on Slovenian home décor culture with her glass designs, the first of which she produced in the mid-1950s. While still a student of architecture under Professor Edvard Ravnikar she presented her designs at the exhibition Housing for Our Conditions in 1956, developing these contemporary, decorative glass and ceramic home accessories with the Boris Kidrič Glassworks from Rogaška Slatina.
Janja Lap explored glass throughout her long and diverse career in architecture, industrial design, teaching, and research as well as system and service design. Glass was her material of choice and the material that won her the most acclaim. After her successful first attempts, she shared and further expanded her knowledge. As a professor at the Arts and Crafts School (now Secondary School of Design and Photography) she also designed glass products with her students and presented them in 1964 at the first Biennial of Industrial Design. The definitive juncture for her career in glass design, however, consisted in her research at the Royal College of Art in London (1964–1966), where she explored different glass techniques with a master glassblower. Taking full advantage of excellent working conditions and under the mentorship of Robert Goodden Lap created some of her best-known works, including the Square (Kvadrat) vase and Indented Beaker (Gubanka) glasses.
Inspired by the old glassworks
In her second year at the RCA’s industrial design department Lap joined a research group that focused on hospitals. It was here that she met Professor Misha Black, the research group leader, and where she also worked with Professor Bruce Archer, who was later her Master’s thesis advisor. Before she returned to Slovenia, Lap served as a lecturer at the architecture department at the University of Sheffield, and for a while she lectured also at the acclaimed Architectural Association School of Architecture in London (AA). Upon her return home in the late 1970s she did a ten-year stint at Iskra as a designer of electro-optical devices.
Interestingly, it was only towards the end of her career that she focused on designing lighting, which is closely associated with the material she was so fond of – glass. In one of her interviews she explained that the Honeycomb chandelier was inspired by old glasswork chandeliers, in particular the pendant candelabra in the church at Loka pri Žusmu. Both chandeliers use mirrored glass, but the conical cups that hold floating candles in her Honeycomb are even more reminiscent of the chandeliers in many other churches around the world that were illuminated by multiple oil lamps in glass cups suspended from a magnificent metal frame. Such chandeliers can be seen in Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and, in much smaller dimensions, in the Sienna cathedral.
This survey exhibition showcases Janja Lap’s versatility as a designer and researcher, and sheds light on this remarkable author’s body of work, which has been all too often overlooked.