Palainco Seriously light minded

The fascinating life of the PH Tennis Lamps at the K.B. Hallen in Copenhagen

If only these lamps could talk…

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Widely considered a functionalist masterpiece, the K.B. Hallen in Copenhagen became a listed cultural heritage site of Denmark in 2011. The bold, concrete structure that was designed by architect Hans Hansen in 1938 is particularly interesting to us as it featured custom-designed lamps by Poul Henningsen (1894-1967), who at the time was Denmark’s rising star in architecture, politics and, of course, lighting.

  • Palainco_Louis_Poulsen_Poul_Henningsen_Tennis_Lamp_Pendant_KB_Hallen_Copenhagen-
  • Palainco_Louis_Poulsen_Poul_Henningsen_Tennis_Lamp_Pendant_KB_Hallen_Copenhagen--3 The K.B. Hallen with the PH Tennis lamps on both sides of the court (source: Louis Poulsen Catalogue B-50, from the Palainco Archive). Pictures above: K.B. Hallen halfway 20th century (source: K.B. Hallen) and PH Tennis Lamp (source: Dansk Møbel Kunst).
  • The K.B. Hallen was named after Kjøbenhavns Boldklub, Copenhagen’s first ball-playing club. King Christian X opened the building in 1938 and at the time, it was the largest privately owned sports facility centre in Europe.

    The Danish Agency for Culture had two reasons for listing the building as a cultural heritage site. There was the architectural perspective: its functionalist style made the building an exceptional example of modernist architecture. The second argument had a cultural-historical background, as over the years the halls had become an icon of a vibrant city life in the form of sports events, large meetings and concerts. We at palainco, would like to add a third argument: the PH 8/6 Tennis Lamps, custom-designed by Poul Henningsen.

  • Palainco_Louis_Poulsen_Poul_Henningsen_Tennis_Lamp_Pendant_KB_Hallen_Copenhagen--9 The architect Poul Henningsen (source: roskildehistorie.dk).
    Palainco_Louis_Poulsen_Poul_Henningsen_Tennis_Lamp_Pendant_KB_Hallen_Copenhagen--4 PH tennis lamp as presented in 1953 (source: Louis Poulsen Catalogue B-50, from the Palainco Archive).
  • In the book Light Years Ahead: the story of the PH Lamp we found an interesting description of the technical aspects of the lamp: “The lower shade is cut off diagonally to shed the maximum possible direct light where tennis players did not risk looking up into the lamps. The top shade’s middle section was replaced by sandblasted glass, partly because the innermost part of the top shade would otherwise dazzle, partly to light the hall’s arch behind the lamp.” Mind you, this is just an extract of all technical characteristics, if you would like to know more, just send us a note.

    Now we come to the part we want to hear more about: the memories that were made inside the K.B. Hallen, some of which entered the collective cultural memory of 20th century Denmark. 

  • Palainco_Louis_Poulsen_Poul_Henningsen_Tennis_Lamp_Pendant_KB_Hallen_Copenhagen--2 Are they watching the tennis or the beautiful lamps? (source: Light Years Ahead).
  • Primarily the halls were intended for sports like badminton, basketball, volleyball and—as you might have guessed—tennis. As part of the World Championship Tennis tour, renowned players such as Arthur Ashe, Goran Ivaniševic and Roger Federer walked the halls between 1973 and 2003.

    Going back further in history to 1943, during World War II, major parts of the Danish naval officers and personnel were temporarily interned in the K.B. Hallen.

  • Palainco_Louis_Poulsen_Poul_Henningsen_Tennis_Lamp_Pendant_KB_Hallen_Copenhagen--14 Danish naval officers interned in the K.B. Hallen (source: Danish Naval History).
  • 16_27A6301001 Were they also able to restore the PH lamps or have they been replaced? (source: grundejerforeningentaarnborg.dk).

     

     

    The building barely survived the summer of 1944, when the Schalburgkorps, a Danish volunteer army corps and a branch of the Germanic-SS, placed a bomb in the hall. Large parts of the furniture and all glass windows were destroyed, but the concrete structure remained intact. Six months after the liberation, in 1945, the hall opened again.

  • Palainco_Louis_Poulsen_Poul_Henningsen_Tennis_Lamp_Pendant_KB_Hallen_Copenhagen--12 Were they debating Stalin's Five-Year Plans? (source: kulturarv.dk).
  • The historic sports facility has witnessed various political movements rise and fall. To mention the two most contrasting ones, it hosted conferences of the DNSAP (the Danish Nazi party) in 1942 and the Communist Party in 1951.

  • Palainco_Louis_Poulsen_Poul_Henningsen_Tennis_Lamp_Pendant_KB_Hallen_Copenhagen--6
    Palainco_Louis_Poulsen_Poul_Henningsen_Tennis_Lamp_Pendant_KB_Hallen_Copenhagen--10 Where these the lucky ones to obtain a ticket for the concert?
  • As a concert hall, it could hold 3,000 people, who would come to see the likes of rock stars like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, the Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead and the Rolling Stones. But in Denmark the K.B. Hallen are primarily famous as the venue in which The Beatles performed in 1964, their only concert ever on Danish ground.

    In October 1969, Henningsen’s lamps lit the world’s first-ever sex fair—would he ever have imagined his lamps would shed light on such a spectacle?

  • Palainco_Louis_Poulsen_Poul_Henningsen_Tennis_Lamp_Pendant_KB_Hallen_Copenhagen--11 During the first sex fair ever… (source: Erik Holmberg).
  • However, even if lamps could talk, it would not help us today, as the building was gutted by fire in September 2011. The fire was probably caused by an electrical fault in the halogen spotlights—clearly not designed by Poul Henningsen.

    It’s unclear what happened to the PH 8/6 Tennis Lamps, but if you take a look at the next picture you will probably agree that they are unlikely to still be among us.

  • Palainco_Louis_Poulsen_Poul_Henningsen_Tennis_Lamp_Pendant_KB_Hallen_Copenhagen--7 The ruins of the K.B. Hallen after the devastating fire in September 2011 (source: Martin Lehmann, Politiken.dk).
  • Yet one hope remains: in our search for the history of the K.B. Hallen we noticed that Bruun Rasmussen auctioned a PH Tennis Lamp on 30 November 2010. The lamp suffered “extensive wear of use due to previous mounting in a sports hall (the K.B. Hallen), where balls have hit the lamp.”

    After the fire, Architectural firm Christensen & Co constructed a new K.B. Hallen. Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark, reopened the venue on December 5th, 2018.

    • Further Reading: Ove Hansen, Steen Jørgensen, Tina Jørstian, Poul Erik Munk Nielsen, Kurt Nørregaard, and Allen de Waal, Light Years Ahead: The Story of the PH Lamp, ed. by Tina Jørstian and Poul Erik Munk Nielsen (Copenhagen: Louis Poulsen, 1994).

    Unless otherwise stated, all material is sourced and/or generated internally. All rights reserved.

    • Text: Louis Poulsen ‘Light Years Ahead, the story of the PH Lamp’ (1994), Wikipedia, arkitekturbilleder.dk, Politiken.dk, Bruun Rasmussen and Palainco.
    • Image sources: Louis Poulsen, 'Light Years Ahead', Royal Danish Naval Museum, K.B. Hallen, roskildehistorie.dk, Martin Lehmann, Politiken.dk, grundejerforeningentaarnborg.dk, Erik Holmberg, kulturarv.dk, and Dansk Møbel Kunst.

    The article and its contents may not be copied or reproduced in any part or form without the prior written permission of the copyright holders.

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