Keeping Classic Character: Brand New, Vintage, Urban Lighting?

Laszlo Kelemen - Production Leader Kandelabra & Deco products
Laszlo Kelemen
Production Leader Kandelabra & Deco products

What makes your city unique? Your history, your citizens, your monuments… there’s the sights that locals and tourists both know and love. But the real character of a place goes deeper than that. It’s the DNA that knits a place together. 

It’s small touches that have been put there over the centuries by previous generations of architects, planners, and citizens.

Changing things such as heritage lighting can therefore be very jarring - but at the same time, change is necessary. Cities benefit from modern lighting that saves energy, reduces glare and above all, lets your character shine through.

The answer to this particular problem is tucked away in the small town of Pilisszentiván, a short drive from Budapest, the Hungarian capital.
Outside, there’s a collection of wrought-iron streetlamps which look like something from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
They are, and they aren’t, at the same time: the lamps are freshly forged, following 19th-century ironworking design books.
The building houses Schréder Hungary’s Kandelàber unit, where we make them brand new in the old-fashioned way.

We're sure there's nowhere else in the world that has this level of experience and passion when it comes to recreating heritage light fittings.
Growing up in Hungary, I was used to seeing pretty villages and picturesque towns lit by old-fashioned candelabras.
When I joined one of the world’s biggest lighting companies, I didn’t expect to be managing this production unit. But I’m very proud of our classic asset.

 

Flexibility makes us who we are: we have a lot of custom-made products and Kandelàber is an extreme example of that. I love working with customers to accurately re-create their heritage lighting assets for the modern world.

 

A Sophisticated Touch for Your Tourist Centre?

Kandelàber started back in the 1980s - it’s a great story, for another time - and grew from part of the socialist brigades restoring Budapest’s vintage candelbra fittings to part of Schréder’s 47-country global network. Kandelàber has lovingly re-created brand new heirloom light fittings for settings as diverse as Schönbrunn Palace, the Laxenburg castles in Vienna and Zürich Railway Station.

There’s even a set in Japan - some two decades ago, an exporter took a fancy to the ornate light fittings of central Europe and ordered a whole set of empty candelabras, which were fitted out to local standards. We still supply parts.

In the workshop, my colleagues draw metal poles out of a forge heated to 900°C before twisting them into the elegant curves that typify Kandelàber’s work.
Most candelabras have a cast iron base and wrought iron decorations, with a few modifications from the original design: for example, the pulley which enabled the lamp to be wound down and lit is no longer necessary in the age of LEDs and cherry-pickers.
Our attention to detail borders on an obsession.

In the forge office, we’ve got a serious collection of 18th century blacksmithing manuals, vintage postcards (to see how street lighting looked) and metallurgical textbooks in Gothic script. We started out working on the bridges across the Danube.
We made a slide show of Budapest’s history, then zoomed in on the candelabras in the background of images from postcards and magazines to show the detail of these ornate lamps.
We’re keen to work with more cities worldwide, enabling them to preserve their history while meeting the environmental and lighting standards of the future.

 

New Technology in Classic Lanterns

Although the techniques are from the past, Kandelàber has its eye on new projects.
By sharing original designs from city archives, you can commission replica luminaires from surviving models - as Budapest did with the vintage wrought-iron lanterns for Heroes’ Square.
The city wanted to install LED lighting controlled by the Owlet Internet of Things (IoT) system along the Dózsa György út, the boulevard by Heroes Square - without upsetting the distinctive aesthetic of this charming district.
We enabled them to do just that, forging brand new lanterns that are indistinguishable from their heirloom counterparts

That’s also what we’re doing in Bruges. This jewel of Flemish heritage draws tourists from across the globe, all year round. The city needed to replace all the lanterns in the city centre, while looking as if nothing had been changed. We are in the process of manufacturing 2,700 LED lanterns which will be IoT ready, look at home in Bruges’ picture-perfect medieval streets, and increase energy efficiency.
Local authorities were delighted by the replica that Kandelaber was able to make with modern technology inside, without compromising the city’s ancient charm.

On the site, we have a large, modern lighting factory next door to the forge, where we make several models from Schréder’s portfolio. Every now and then we get people, particularly those  who are new to Schréder who question it who ask what Kandelàber is, and why we have a forge. Once they see the products, they understand.

Recreating the lighting of the past has never had such a bright future! It’s certainly a quirky part of my role, but I love helping cities create brand new “heritage” lighting that keeps their character intact.

About the writer

Intrigued by lighting, Laszlo joined the Schréder company over 30 years and quickly developed a real passion for helping towns and cities to preserve their heritage lanterns.
His rich experience makes him an invaluable asset - he can rebuild, re-engineer and recreate products that are as good and authentic as the original and comply with lighting standards.