Neon’s making a comeback if Pinterest’s 2021 predictions are correct. While we mostly associate neon lighting with nightclubs and seedy strip joints these days, its origins are a much classier affair.
A Frenchman named Georges Claude pioneered neon signage in the early 1900s when long tubes of glass were bent by hand to create decorative logos and signage. These neon signs were used in restaurants and high-end establishments that could afford the expensive modern marvel.
Rombo IV in Mexico City by Taller Aragonés
Across the pond, neon was adopted as the lighting of choice for the country’s booming modern metropolises. It’s thought there were 20,0000 neon advertisements in Manhattan and Brooklyn in the 1930s alone, and the flickering glow became synonymous with American culture, immortalised in the paintings of Edward Hopper and the neon sculptures of Joseph Kosuth.
By the 1970s, when the fabric of US cities shifted, and crime rates and urban-flight spiked, neon took on this association too.
Karl’s restaurant by ASH NYC in Detroit
But neon lighting never entirely went away, especially not in the worlds of fashion, art and design. Even with the rise of low energy LED light bulbs, and interior designers are returning to this historical form to breathe fresh life into their projects. From Bauhaus-inspired geometric shapes to postmodern patterns, this mood board has some of our favourite neon rooms on Pinterest.
Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Chromosaturation installation
Lost House by David Adjaye
Daniel Buren & Philippe Parreno’s Simultanément installation
Installation at Blackpool resort
Family Creche by Fluor Architecture
Hyperreality restaurant Omakase by Shanghai Hip-pop Architectural Decoration Design Co
Bureau Betak designed set for Fendi in Milan
Retro neon noodle bar Diamond Lili by YUDesigns
Installation by Lucio Fontana
Nyx Rooftop Bar by Alberto Caiola
Game Over restaurant
Want to find out more about neon lighting?
- Podcast 99% Invisible covers the history of ‘tube benders’ in episode 193.
- Read Cristoph Ribbat’s seminal text, ‘Flickering Light: A History of Neon.’