How do you begin the process to design a product (or two, or hundreds)? “Start from scratch. Stick to common sense. Know your goals and means.” That was the way of thinking for Italian design pioneer Achille Castiglioni, who, with his brothers Livio and Pier Giacomo, worked from the viewpoint that design must restructure an object’s function, form and production process.
Castiglioni was often inspired by materials others would consider mundane—from a tractor seat used in his Mezzadro Stool, a car reflector in the Toio Lamp, to a leather bike saddle in the Sella Stool. As a professor of industrial design, Castiglioni undoubtedly inspired generations of designers to be creative and find beauty and inspiration in ordinary things.
Even with that philosophy, we can’t help but consider our favorite Castiglioni pieces anything but ordinary. Here’s a look at a few:
Fucsia Collection for Flos
Designed in 1996, the Fucsia Pendant collection sought to solve the problem of having uniform, direct and diffused light on varying surfaces. The design and dimensions of each pendant works individually or as many clustered together—each body houses a cylindrical aluminum tube under a hand-blown glass cone with sanded edges to shield the eyes from glare. The idea is to create more than one light point, inspired by chandeliers of yesteryear, and especially one designed by Castiglioni’s father in the 1930s.
Snoopy Table Lamp for Flos
Named after the shape of the famous Beagle’s snout, The Snoopy Table Lamp was reintroduced in 2003 from its original 1967 design. The base is built from white marble, under a black enamel shade over a thick disc of glass (which helps to counterbalance the weight of both components, making the lamp much more stable than it appears).
Arco Floor Lamp
This dramatic fixture has been often imitated, never duplicated. Inspired by a streetlight, the Arco’s dramatic arc filled a need for an overhead fixture that didn’t require installation or suspension. Fitted with a marble base, the Arco weighs in at a whopping 78 pounds—which is why you’ll find a hole in the base, which the Castiglioni brothers envisioned could be used to slip a broom handle through to carry it. The piece was just re-released with LED technology, but the original made its production debut in 1962—which is why you’ll appropriately see Mad Men’s Roger Sterling sporting one in his office at Sterling Cooper Draper Price.
Keeping the Legacy Alive
Castiglioni’s wife and daughter, Irma and Giovanna, have worked to preserve the designer’s Milan studio, managing guided tours to share Castiglioni’s way of thinking, teaching and working. The tour invites guests to have an inside look at the room where models and prototypes are kept, the room with drafting machines, a room of Castiglioni’s collections, and the “architect’s room.”