Modular Lighting Instruments

This year, the Henry van de Velde Award for a Company goes to Modular.

By Bie Luyssaert
'Recessed' (AR111)
'Recessed' (AR111)

This company, with its roots in West Flanders, was set up in 1980 by Paul Rommens and Jan Meyfroidt under the name of 'InterBeams', an importer of MoleRichardson from France. InterBeams was and outandout pioneer in introducing low voltage lighting to the Belgian Market.

Before long, however, importing was not enough for these two creative characters, and in 1983 they introduced the first low voltage outdoor lighting models of their own, Una, Jules and Apostrophe, quickly followed by the Modupoint jack system, which allows the customer to decide for himself which spots to connect up to the system. From 1987 onwards, export became one of the company's new cornerstones. This further internationalisation went hand in hand with a change of name from InterBeams to Moduler Lighting Instruments. From then on, things progressed quickly. What sets Modular's products apart is not just their industrial, intriguing and somewhat off the rails look, but also the sense of innovation possessed by their two designers and the striking and famous image campaigns, which say as much about lifestyle and sense of nonconformity as they do about the power of the lighting.

Modular believes very strongly in the total concept, and this can be seen throughout its organisation. The company's own staff deal with the concept phase and product development: from design and prototyping to distribution. And the company also builds its stands, sets up communication campaigns, and works out lighting studies inhouse. The campaign images tie in closely with the trade fair stands, which always give the visitors a surprise. 

Around the turn of the century, a few of the business entities split off. Fractal (1996) for example, became an independent stand building firm and RotoR (2004) a communication company with one foot in design, but each still ha strong links with Modular and retains the same spirit.

After the death of Jan Meyfroidt in 2002, Paul Rommens continued the business and looked at how Modular could align itself for the future. Much time and energy was invested in setting up a professional and competitive business entity. Modular became the first lighting firm to obtain ISO 14001 certification. 

This allowed Modular to work with clients such as Volvo, providing lighting for the Swedish car manufacturer's showrooms. It also works with external designers more than before, such as Vincent Van Duysen, Joël Claïsse and Luc Vincent. In April 2004 this positive rhythm of growth led to the takeover of Modular Lighting Instruments by CVC, a strategic player in the lighting market, with both Massive and Modular in its portfolio.

The daytotday management later fell to Lieven Messiaen, but Paul Rommens remains as one of the key internal creative forces. In 2005, Modular has a workforce of 110. The brand is distributed in some 60 countries. Customers are kept up to date via the Zinetta magazine, in which creations and product files appear alongside lifestyle articles in the wellknown, atypical Modular house style. The Henry van de Velde  Award for a Company crowns 25 years of spirit and originality, and represents a step forward for the next 25 years.