Remembering Achille Castiglioni, the master of industrial design

STIR pays tribute to the design legend whose maxim 'design demands observation' gave birth to whimsical and functional innovations such as the Arco and Snoopy lamps.

by Jincy Iype Published on : Feb 16, 2020

“Design shouldn’t be trendy. Good Design should last over time, until it wears out.” - Achille Castiglioni (February 16, 1918 – December 2, 2002)

Unmistakably one of the most famous industrial product designers the world has come to admire, Achille Castiglioni’s oeuvre consists of whimsically well-designed products, led by him and his brothers. Since their inception to the present day, Castiglioni’s designs have been widely regarded over time because of their simple functionality. On his birth anniversary, STIR honours the Italian architect and designer’s maxim – ‘design demands observation’ – which led to the creation of objects which responded mindfully to our everyday needs, and delivered practicality.

Acclaimed Italian architect and designer Achille Castiglioni | Achille Castiglioni | STIRworld
Acclaimed Italian architect and designer Achille Castiglioni Image Credit: Courtesy of Flos

Castiglioni studied architecture at Politecnico di Milano, and proceeded to start a design office along with his brothers, Livio and Pier Giacomo. Livio withdrew from the collective in 1952, but Achille and Pier continued to mesmerise the world with their signature interior pieces. Following Pier Giacomo’s death (1968), Achille carried on as a designer, an urban planner whilst teaching at the Polytechnic of Turin and the Architectural Polytechnic of Milan. They also specifically designed for Italian companies such as Flos, Zanotta and Alessi. Castiglioni won the prestigious Italian design award, Compasso d’Oro, a whopping nine times, along with other accolades.

During his career, Castiglioni produced more than 150 products, along with his architectural work, including lamps, ashtrays, stools, switches, cameras, telephones, bookshelves, and car seats. The work picked up steam steadily and gained respect and admiration from the design community at large. It paved the way for most modern designs by focusing on designing practical, quirky and purposeful products. Some of these remarkable innovations included their tractor seat tool, Mezzadro, and Sella, a chair fashioned out of a bicycle seat.

Snoopy by Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, 1967 | Achille Castiglioni | STIRworld
Snoopy by Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, 1967 Image Credit: Courtesy of Flos

Their elegant Arco lamp was inspired by a street lamp, eliminating the need to suspend light from the ceiling. A ball shaped shade is attached to a long, curved steel arm that extends eight feet from the marble base it is tethered on. The Snoopy table lamp was unmistakably inspired by its namesake - Charlie Brown’s white pet beagle. This too possesses a marble base, along with its rounded metal and glass top, presenting a quirky, fun light fixture. His other popular lighting products include the Gatto table lamp, which means ‘little cat’ in Italian, a soft lamp that sits on any flat surface, and throws diffused light; the Taccia, which gives the illusion of an upside-down hanging lamp and the Taraxacum, formed by 20 pressed, polished aluminum triangles and fitted around with 120 clear Globolux lamps in a sphere. All of these iconic products are the outcome of Castiglioni's dedication and commitment to design practical pieces by observing everyday life, sheer inventiveness, clear expertise and an aesthetic sensibility. 

  • Arco by Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, 1962 | Achille Castiglioni | STIRworld
    Arco by Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, 1962 Image Credit: Courtesy of Flos
  • Gatto by Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, 1960 | Achille Castiglioni | STIRworld
    Gatto by Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, 1960 Image Credit: Courtesy of Flos
  • Taccia lamp by Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, 1962 | Achille Castiglioni | STIRworld
    Taccia lamp by Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, 1962 Image Credit: Courtesy of Flos
  • Taraxacum 88 Suspension 2 by Achille Castiglioni, 1988 | Achille Castiglioni | STIRworld
    Taraxacum 88 Suspension 2 by Achille Castiglioni, 1988Image Credit: Courtesy of Flos

His products began to garner so much acclaim and respect that they made their way to design collections in museums across the globe, marking a shift in the art world as well - his industrial design products were considered works of art. Castiglioni's pieces have been displayed at the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Royal Institute of British Architects (London), Musée des Arts Decoratifs (Paris) and the Modern Art Museum, among others. He continues to inspire generations of designers with his remarkable work and philosophy, and his belief that form and function are the main protagonists in the play of successful design.

Achille Castiglioni's industrial design products are considered works of art | Achille Castiglioni | STIRworld
Achille Castiglioni's industrial design products are considered works of art Image Credit: ph.© Cesare Colombo, Courtesy of Flos

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About Author

Jincy Iype

Jincy Iype

Iype is a trained architect, who often indulges in writing and amateur photography. She was a cinephile and a melophile even before she knew what those words meant. She is inclined towards architecture journalism, and can usually be found curled up reading a book, or cooking for therapeutic relief.

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