Chandelier specialist Dernier and Hamlyn has been manufacturing light fittings since 1888. In that time the company has built up an impressive portfolio of projects including schemes at the House of Commons and various Royal Palaces. The chandelier for the Aurora restaurant project at the Great Eastern Hotel by the Manser Practice and Conran and Partners is a collaboration with ceramicist Jo Whiting.
Working with Bridget Salter and Jane Lawrence of Conran, the final result is less organic than Whiting's previous work - although equally dramatic.
There are eight chandeliers in the restaurant;
four with a diameter of 2m and four slightly smaller at 1.5m diameter. Some 624 individually handmade porcelain tiles were used in each of the large lights, with 4320 tiles made in all.
Whiting likens the machine for creating tiles to a pasta maker. Each tile is around 5mm thick, with two small holes at one end by which it is pinned to the frame. Each one is impressed with a gauze texture. This somewhat accidental effect was originally created during the pressing process when muslin was used to prevent the wet, putty-like porcelain from sticking to the mangle.
Achieving the right configuration of tiles around the frame was a long and painstaking process. Each translucent layer of porcelain subtly affects the degree of light allowed through, and it was vital to Conran that the effect was right. The design and manufacture process took just over five months, most of the time spent on the 'fine tweaking' of the varying layers of the tiles. The eventual solution was to make the tiles on the outermost layer shorter than the rest to increase the amount of light that filtered through the layers.
Each chandelier consists of three different types of lamp. Uplighters throw a soft beam onto the original plaster molding on the ceiling above and downlighters and general lamps give a more general illumination. The angle for the spotlight downlighters was crucial to avoid a 'scalloping' effect on the porcelain.