The 7 Best Architect Lamps

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This wiki has been updated 32 times since it was first published in July of 2015. You don't have to design buildings for a living to know that adequate lighting in your workspace will minimize eye strain and help you to be more efficient and productive. These architect lamps are great for artists, photographers, students, and many others who spend time at a desk, as their adjustable arms allow you to swing the light into the ideal position for your projects. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. BenQ e-Reading

2. Phive Task

3. Tomons Swing Arm

Editor's Notes

May 28, 2021:

We decided to remove a pair of models that were basically identical to others ranked higher on the list, as well as one option that garnered surprisingly poor long-term reviews since our last update. Otherwise, we didn't change any recommendations, and are confident that one of the remaining models should fill your needs.

We also want to take a moment to gush over just how great a lamp the BenQ e-Reading is. It's not unusual for in-depth projects to spill over to nighttime, and the smooth adjustability of this premium option is perfect for minimizing eye strain with long-term use. If you want something that mounts to your desk, we recommend the Phive Task, while the Tomons Swing Arm is a good choice for those like the wooden aesthetic.

February 13, 2020:

Today we added in the Ikea Forsa, which is a basic, budget-friendly choice that’s great for those who do not need adjustable brightness and color temperature. It provides around 18 inches of height adjustability and, while it does not come with a bulb, this gives you the chance to choose one with exactly the brightness and color you prefer. It’s available in a nickel-plated finish or matte ones in blue, black, or green. Unlike many architect lamps that feature a highly modern design, this one is great for those who prefer a more classic look.

The BenQ e-Reading remains in the top spot, as it has a lot to offer, including an anti-glare mode that’s great for anyone who spends a lot of time looking at a screen. It also smartly detects a room’s ambient brightness and adjusts its intensity automatically. Its sleek, curved shape is a minimalist’s dream, and it’s highly flexible, thanks to its sturdy ball joint design.

Another slick model is the Phive Task, which lets you select its brightness with just the tap of an icon, and it remembers your selected setting until you choose to change it again. It can light up a large area, making it great for large projects or for when two people share a desk. Its durable metal clamp can attach securely to any drafting table or standard desk.

October 12, 2018:

Added the BenQ e-Reading for its automatic brightness adjustment and special anti-glare mode for computer monitors and other screens. Replaced discontinued items and removed the 3M Alvin due to safety concerns regarding the clamp/bracket failing.

Special Honors

Quattro LED Task Lamp Perfect for minimalists, this lamp sports a thin, flat panel and goes well on a modern desk or night stand. It’s designed by renowned artist Robert Sonneman, whose works can be found in major retail stores and museums alike. It’s made of metal and acrylic and features a height of 29 inches, a three-step optical dimmer, and a 6-watt LED panel.

Angelpoise Lighting This designer-level manufacturer offers a surprisingly wide range of desk lamps in both the traditional architect style as well as others such as wall-mounted options. You'll have to pay a bit more for these than for lesser-known or generic models, but users agree across the board that their lighting capabilities and long-term effectiveness are basically second to none.

4. BYB Metal Clamp

5. Otus Adjustable

6. Youkoyi Touch Control

7. Ikea Forsa

Not Just For Architects

Their prevalence as a decorating option has led to this type of lamp being available in a vast range of metals and painted colors to fit any aesthetic or budget.

The term architect lamp generally refers to any desk lighting with a durable metal body and an independently adjustable arm and head. This category of lighting goes by many names, including drafting lamps, task lights, and even swing lamps. While this particular style of lamp may have been originally designed for engineers and planners to read and draw highly detailed blueprints, an architect's lamp can be an indispensable tool for a variety of modern careers. Not matter what your profession, these task lamps offer ergonomic benefits because you can bring the illumination where you need it to be, rather than straining into an awkward position to get the best light.

Just about any type of artist can benefit from the convenient flexibility an architect lamp can offer. Jewelry makers can direct the stream of light to help them with the tiny, delicate adjustments they need to make in their work, while a graphic artist can use the auxiliary light to help prevent eye strain when they're spending long hours working in front of a screen. Those in professions that require hours of reading or editing will appreciate the ability to quickly and easily re-direct the light source as they change positions for comfort.

Although this type of task light was once considered an unattractive, but functional choice for a reading or desk lamp, the prevalence of the modern industrial style in home decorating has turned these lights into a common decorator's accessory. Even if you can't afford a trendy loft in an up-and-coming neighborhood in the the city, a well-chosen architect lamp can accent your home office or living room with an no-nonsense industrial vibe. Their prevalence as a decorating option has led to this type of lamp being available in a vast range of metals and painted colors to fit any aesthetic or budget.

Choosing The Right Light For Your Eyes

There are a multitude of reasons to invest in a high quality architect lamp. Given their usefulness for a variety of careers, you can find task lamps with many features to make work time even more productive. A lot of these features are aimed at reducing eye strain. A dimming function is a must for anyone prone to working overtime hours. In addition, look for a unit that emits a soft, diffused glow without flicker. If you purchase a cheaper lamp prone to flickering, you can end up with headaches, as well as eye fatigue.

A dimming function is a must for anyone prone to working overtime hours.

Some of the newest models come with bulbs featuring a wide range of temperature settings so you can customize your lighting to match the task at hand, whether you're working or reading a novel before bedtime. While the brightest setting might be useful for those doing highly detailed work, some will find it too harsh, even when dimmed. The best options will have a full-spectrum of choices, from cool white and daylight to warm white reminiscent of the old incandescent bulbs we grew up with.

While the classic look of a task lamp has a rounded or cone-shaped head to house the bulb, the latest units will come with a more elongated head to hold the more advanced bulbs that offer you customized choices. If you're choosing a lamp as a decorating accent, then you may not concern yourself with the latest advances and go with the more vintage, rounded styling. You can find a wide array of high-end, industrial chic options that may not offer much in the way of functionality, but will look great in your space.

Finally, if you find yourself lacking in table or desk space, or prefer your light to come from overhead, many makers of architect lamps offer clip-on options. They often look just like the standing version, but come with strong clamps so you can attach them to the side of a table or even over your bed.

A Brief History Of The Architect Lamp

In the 1920s multiple inventors experimented with the concept of task lighting with an articulating arm using complicated counterweight structures, but none of them were practical enough to catch on. Then George Carwardine, a British car designer who specialized in vehicle suspensions, designed a desk lamp similar to the kind we use today.

While he patented the design, his original intent for the light source was simply to use it in his place of work.

His light incorporated a suspension mechanism that allowed the adjustable arm to provide much needed balance that made the product functional. While he patented the design, his original intent for the light source was simply to use it in his place of work. A spring supplier for the car factory saw potential in the design and obtained a license to begin producing and selling the Anglepoise lamp in 1933.

The sewing industry quickly embraced this versatile and convenient lighting option, catching the eye of Scandinavian textile machinery importer Jac Jacobsen. In 1938, he acquired the rights to sell the product in Norway, after making a few modifications to the design himself. It was called the Luxo L-1, and became a classic tool on the desks of professionals in many fields, from architects to graphic designers. These lamps have become such a fixture, they have even inspired the mascot for the computer animation company Pixar. Luxo Jr. stars in his own two minute short, and is part of the 13-second opening sequence that opens every Pixar film.

Karen Bennett
Last updated by Karen Bennett

Karen Bennett lives in Chicago with her family, and when she’s not writing, she can usually be found practicing yoga or cheering on her kids at soccer games. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and a bachelor’s in English, and her writing has been published in various local newspapers, as well as “The Cheat Sheet,” “Illinois Legal Times,” and “USA Today.” She has also written search engine news page headlines and worked as a product manager for a digital marketing company. Her expertise is in literature, nonfiction, textbooks, home products, kids' games and toys, hardware, teaching accessories, and art materials.

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