ACHILLE CASTIGLIONI AND THE GOLDEN AGE OF ITALIAN DESIGN
Celebrating the centenary of the birth of the internationally acclaimed visionary architect and designer
If the world of design were to be described via the language and dynamics of a cinematic environment, architect Achille Castiglioni would have to be considered the ‘designer-director’ of an unforgettable creative Golden Age par excellence. Born in Milan in 1918, Castiglioni was the great protagonist of one of Italy’s most fertile periods of creativity, articulating, thanks to his visionary prowess, a new design language destined to forever leave its mark. His inexhaustible professional activity saw him realize 484 installation projects, 290 artefacts, many of which have become true icons of design culture, and that’s without mentioning his 191 architectural projects.
Achille began designing together with his brother Pier Giacomo until 1968, after which he went out on his own, concentrating almost obsessively on experimentation with ‘ephemeral architecture’, his favorite field as part of his continual research into innovation in the combining of original technology with new materials. The ‘director’ Castiglioni, lifts the transient from its fragility and steers it knowingly towards a timeless dimension, bringing back from within different historical eras the embodiment of a continuous present which never fades away. Even his artefacts clearly reflect this attitude towards time and space: we can see it in unique creations such as the Arco, Aoi, Gibigiana, Ipotenusa, Luminator, Splügen Braü and La Lampadina lamps, and also the Mazzadro and Sella stools, the Tric folding chair, the Moon-landing seat, the Dry cutlery, the Wall Clock and the Rekord clocks. These objects have been transformed into timeless design icons and, in addition, include the Primate kneeling-seat, the RR126 stereo radiogram, the Lapis vase, and Rompitratta switch. “The object of design should not be fashion. In fact fashion is designed to go out of fashion. Good design should remain current, until it becomes worn out,” said Castiglioni, “capable of incorporating into itself, the layouts and ideas
The history of the architect and designer Castiglioni is the fascinating story of a creative maverick who was able to re-invent the role of the temporary installation as an effective means of commercial and cultural communication
brought from the field of exhibition.
The immortal materials and forms, although subject to use and intended for the consumer, delineate in turn the evolution of the city of Milan, through changes in commercial and industrial dynamics and the international relations of the metropolis. For Castiglioni, the form derives from the challenges of function, solved with coherence and simplicity: the nagging paradox which has long troubled architects and design gurus is resolved by Achille who makes the aesthetically-beautiful and concretelyvalid coincide. Therefore, there is no gap between form and function, beauty and active participation are the cornerstones of Castiglioni’s creations: his greatness is simply expressed by his ability to convert trivial, everyday inconveniences, such as an annoying lamp or a tool of limited utility, into great opportunities such as the Toio lamp - a ready-made solution worthy of Duchamp. High, thin, Left: Portrait of Achille Castiglioni with Arco lamp, beginning of the ‘70s Achille Castiglioni Archive Right: Telescuola. Pavilion for the XXXVII Milan Fair, 1959, Customer: RAI. Milan Fair. Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni. Graphics: Pino Tovaglia, Posters: Radio Invitation. Graphics: Iliprandi, Steiner, Max Huber, Munari, Zaibl, Benca, Bianconi, Provinciali, Tovaglia. Achille Castiglioni Archive © 2018, Prolitteris, Zurich. Television and radio broadcasting in rural communities. Pavilion for the XLIII Milan Fair, 1965 Customer: RAI. Milan Fair. Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni. Graphics: Enzo Mari. Achille Castiglioni Archive
Simplicity and irony pervade the Master’s concepts, and a talent for creating new shapes and spaces, some in symbiotic collaboration with graphic designers, particularly the Swiss Max Huber
lightweight, refined, it manages to combine ease of movement with a specific usefulness as the mounted light unit needs to be able to be swivelled to illuminate a single point at a time. Innovation and concept brought to life, such as the Allunaggio garden-seat, which is supported by three thin steel legs, is easy to move about and resembles a friendly spider on-the-move. “I view objects as if they were at the center of a network of connections to the environment, bound to each other with affection and mutual sympathy.” It’s no coincidence that levity, playfulness, and empathy represent Castiglioni’s true strengths, a firm supporter of reciprocity between designer and client. In his architect’s studio, a 45º inclined mirror created the illusion of plunging into a fictitious parallel dimension. At first glance, Achille Castiglioni appeared to be there in front of the visitor, when in fact he was sat in an adjacent room. An illusion, a friendly joke: Achille invited his interlocutors to participate in a visionary approach to reality. Castiglioni’s history and creations have demonstrated his incredible talent for knowing how to conceive and utilize every concept in the field of design.
For Achille Castiglioni, the form derives from the challenges of function, solved with coherence and simplicity: the nagging paradox which has long troubled architects and design gurus is resolved by Achille who makes the aesthetically-beautiful and concretely-valid coincide
1. 1. La Lampadina, conceived by Achille Castiglioni in 1972 on the occasion of the inauguration of the Flos store in Turin 2. Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, Mezzadro, stool, 1957, stem in chromed steel, tractor seat in lacquered metal, footrest in oven-dried beech, produced by Zanotta, Photo by Matteo Zarbo Max Huber Archive 3. Achille Castiglioni, Gibigiana, table lamp, 1980, produced for Flos Photo by Matteo Zarbo Achille Castiglioni Archive