Samba-M “Glass of Light”: Re-Issued Genius

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Last updated: April 19, 2023

Ambientec, a Japanese brand, famous for elegant and portable lamps has done it again. To commemorate the death of a Shiro Kuramata, a Tokyo design genius, it is reissuing a timeless classic with a new name: Samba-M.

Samba-M celebrates an original idea by Shiro-san. A common wine glass, found in every home, became his challenge and inspiration for a lamp.

Table of Contents

  1. Shiro Kuramata
  2. Samba-M: The Beginnings
  3. Samba-M: Designed by Ambientec
  4. Samba-M: Product Fact Sheet
  5. Designer Shiro Kuramata (1934 – 1991)
  6. Ambientec: The Nomadic Lamp Company
  7. Yoshinori Kuno, President, Ambientec
  8. The Influential Tamura Joe Gallery
  9. Full Samba-M Product Gallery

Shiro Kuramata

Shiro Kuramata was one of the 20th century’s most important designers. His influence spanned surrealism and contemporary art. Kuramata-san’s work was free-spirited and playful. Materials like wire steel mesh to plexiglass for furniture and interiors were common uses.

This design philosophy was in stark contrast with today’s efficiency-focused, market-oriented mainstream design.

In 1990, the French government awarded Shiro Kuramata the Ordre des Arts et Des Lettres. It recognized his outstanding contribution to art and design.

He died in 1991, leaving a legacy as one from a generation of Japanese creatives born before World War 2. This generation transformed the world’s view of Japan.

He made striking interiors for Issey Miyake’s boutique shops. He also designed the Kiyomoto Sushi Bar, among other sushi restaurants in Tokyo. The Kiyomoto Sushi Bar sits in a collection at M+ in Hong Kong, a museum for visual culture.

Samba-M: The Beginnings

Introduced in 1988, the original Samba-M was expensive and difficult to produce. Only small numbers were available to the public.

Shiro-san developed this original idea at the vernissage of the exhibition “In-Spiration”. He would surprise two guests, Arad and Zaha Hadid, by placing a bright red light in his glass of champagne. Playful, yes. Yet, very deliberate. Kuramata-san demonstrated the appeal of design in spaces between product and artistic vision.

Samba-M: Designed by Ambientec

This cultural and technological statement was entrusted to Ambientec by the prestigious Gallery Tamura Joe, under the supervision of the Kuramata Design Office, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Shiro Kuramata’s death

Ambientec has developed a new edition of the lamp as a work of functional art, something to build a personal and sentimental relationship with. And perhaps no piece reflects that philosophy better than Samba-M, the ideal example of Shiro Kuramata’s irreverent, touching design.  

Ambientec’s Samba-M is a “glass of light” (goblet) is a true objet d’art, made of thin and double-layered glass. Integrated with advanced LED technology, it lights up in red at the softest touch.
Like all Ambientec portable lamps, the Samba-M reissue is waterproof. It is rechargeable with a long-lasting lithium-ion battery.

It evokes the iridescent tones of the wine that the Maestro raised a toast at the vernissage in 1988.

Yoshinori Kuno, Ambientec’s CEO, and founder describes Samba-M’s reissue as a challenge. Ambientec saw an opportunity to use all its technological expertise for this project. Yet remained challenged to preserve and communicate Kuramta-san’s original stroke of genius.

Yoshinori-san admires Shiro-san’s original objet d’art, both provocative and iconic, and far from mainstream. Ambientec will introduce the Samba-M and its new collection at the Salone del Mobile in Milan, Italy. This 60th edition event runs from September 5-10, 2021.

Ambientec’s lamps are “nomadic objects,” essential and poetic forms integrated with exclusive LED technology. Each product draws on Yoshinori Kuno’s extensive experience in the field of professional lighting for underwater photography, designed to illuminate the darkest depths of the ocean, bringing that technical expertise into the world of design. 

“At Ambientec, we are always thinking of ways to enrich the relationship between people and light. For example, through questioning the overly bright illumination of contemporary spaces, we were able to produce a series of lamps that provide a gentler light–one that preserves the unique ambience of the night. We also pursue new forms of domestic LED and cordless illumination that stimulate the senses, as well as lamp designs that brighten up a living space whether the lamp is switched on or off.

— Yoshinori Kuno, President, Ambientec

Samba-M: Product Fact Sheet

DIMENSIONS3.15 by 8.35 inches
Brightness decreases by about 70% after 40,000 hours of use
The charging stand is not water-proof
3.7V / 190 mAh
low usage (up to 24hrs)
medium-usage (12 hours)
high-usage (6 hours)

PRICE LIST308 Euros (+ IVA) or 375.76 Euros (IVA included)
355 American Dollars
SOURCEBarbara Musso, Novita Italia

Designer Shiro Kuramata (1934 – 1991)

His countercultural style creates unexpected relationships between objects, and his legacy is a major one for the whole design world. After earning a degree in Architecture from the Tokyo Technical College, he began working for the furniture company Teikokukizai in 1953. In 1965, he founded the Kuramata Design Office.

In the 1970s and 1980s, he explored the possibilities offered by emerging technologies and industrial materials. In 1981, he joined the Italian design collective known as the Memphis Group. He shared a playful spirit and passion for bold colors with the members of the group and became close friends with its founder Ettore Sottsass.

His surrealist vision revolutionizes everyday objects through a mix of art, craftsmanship, and design. Among his most disruptive designs is the steel mesh armchair “How High the Moon”, and the “Miss Blanche” armchair in clear methacrylate with colorful paper flowers embedded in the material. He also designed the “Progetti Compiuti” line of drawer units for Cappellini.

He passed away prematurely in 1991, at the age of 56. Many of his works are on view in the permanent collections of major world museums including the Centre G. Pompidou in Paris, the MoMA Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Vitra Design Museum in Basel, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto. 

Ambientec: The Nomadic Lamp Company

The Japanese light design company was founded in 2009. Founder and CEO Yoshinori Kuno had previously created AOI Japan Co., Ltd. in 1999, specializing in the production of protective underwater cases for professional photography equipment and, later, a full line of professional lighting for underwater photography under the RGBlue brand, still a synonym for high-quality today. 

This technology, and the know-how necessary for the development of portable gear able to resist high water pressure at extreme depths while still providing excellent light, represented a body of knowledge that Yoshinori Kuno brought into the world of portable lamp design. Ambientec was created to explore new frontiers in portable lighting for everyday spaces: from outdoors to the bath, from the home to the elegant café.

High-quality components and a refined design come together to create inimitable products. Driven by experience in underwater photography gear, Ambientec’s portable, rechargeable and waterproof lamps are made with masterful precision in ultra-sturdy materials that make them – in terms of both style and durability – indestructible.

Yoshinori Kuno, President, Ambientec

His fascination with light began early. After working in digital imaging, he followed his passion for the depths of the ocean and began research into the field of professional lighting for underwater photography. Among the challenges presented were those of resistance to water pressure at 100 meters below the surface and the need for total and absolute waterproofing. In the meantime, the rise of modern devices led him to reflect on ways to move beyond the “disposable” mentality of the culture of mass production and toward a more honest, balanced, and sustainable relationship between people and objects. 

In the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, he decided to create a new kind of indoor lamp, one that people could take with them into any space or setting. A visionary concept of a portable, indestructible, reliable light with integrated LED technology that would also be comfortable and charming. A poetic sort of light is at the heart of all Ambientec’s designs, one that is never harsh or cold, but that carries on a friendly dialogue with the space it illuminates.

Yoshinori Kuno is passionate about sound and the rarefied sonorities of electronics and wanted to create a light that would caress the dark and encourage an intimate atmosphere for listening. A light to bring beauty into space even when turned off. Wireless, thus personal by definition, Ambientec lamps invite you to reach out and touch them both physically and visually, through an experimental design based on an intense purity of form and the vivid sensory qualities of their materials.

Gallery Tamura Joeis one of the most influential design galleries in Japan directed by entrepreneurs and design enthusiasts Masatoshi Tamura and Joe Suzuki.

Masatoshi Tamura is a graduate of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in the United States. Back in Japan, he founded Sempre Design, a lifestyle store that is well known among design enthusiasts for its selection of talented and emerging designers. 

Joe Suzuki is both a designer and an entrepreneur. He collaborates with international artists in the development of new projects and he also organizes design events. A journalist by passion, he is the author of “A Secret of Masterpiece Furniture,” a publication still considered a best-seller among design books. Suzuki is also an art collector and participated in the establishment of the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery.

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