Achille Castiglioni  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Achille Castiglioni (Milan, February 16 1918 - December 2 2002) was an Italian designer. He was often inspired by everyday things and made use of ordinary materials. He uses the minimal amount of materials while creating forms with a maximum effect.



Achille Castiglioni studied architecture at the Politecnico di Milano University and set up a design office in 1944 with his brothers, Livio Castiglioni and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni.

The Castiglioni brothers

The teamwork and professional partnership that came out from the work of Achille Castiglioni, Livio Castiglioni and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni gave birth to the so-called Castiglioni brothers team. Livio then left in 1952. This group have become one of the most witty, elegant and innovative partnerships in modern design. The brothers worked from the viewpoint that design must restructure an object's function, form and production process, and applied this maxim to every work that they produced. Castiglioni described this process with these words: "Start from scratch. Stick to common sense. Know your goals and means".

The Castiglionis' Work

In the 1950's the Castiglioni brothers publicly cemented their commitment to redesigning objects, with their tractor seat stool, Mezzadro and their Sella chair made of a bicycle seat. Castiglioni said of his design for the Sella, "When I use a pay phone, I like to move around, but I also would like to sit, but not completely." These designs drew upon the ready made school of art, in which everyday objects are repurposed for the showroom floor.

The chairs also embrace Castiglioni's theory of a Principal Design Component, or PDC, which the designer has found and is building upon within his design.

The Creation of ADI

In 1956, Castiglioni founded the ADI (Association for Industrial Design).

The Fifties' and Sixties' creations

During the fifties and sixties the Castiglioni brothers produced a remarkable number of popular designs. Their "Spalter" vacuum cleaner (1956), manufactured by Rem, was made of bright red plastic and was meant to be slung across the user's back with a leather strap, like a bag. Their lamps, the minimalist "Luminator" (1955) and "Bulb" (1957), employed exposed bulbs. In 1957 they held a show entitled, "Forme e Colori nella Casa d'Oggi" (Shapes and Colours in Today's Home) at Villa Olmo in Como, to exhibit their series of ready made designs.

In 1962 they introduced their "Arco", which was a floor lamp with a long, curved arm extending eight feet from the marble base which had to be moved "by two people inserting a broomstick through the hole in the base.

"Their"Snoopy Lamp of 1967 was a table lamp, indeed inspired by the cartoon character, also had a marble base, which stabilized the egg-shaped metal and glass shade. Their "Toio" (1962) lamp again turned to the PDC method, using a car reflector as its inspiration. Their lighting system for the Montecatini pavilion at the Milan Fair in 1962 featured cone shaped lights suspended from wires.

The Castiglinis also designed the "RR126" stereo system (1965) which was meant to be a "musical pet," and was considered to be one of his "Expressionistic Objects." The dials and controls form the shape of a face, with the speakers as ears. This design, for Brionvega, was free standing, with casters to make it mobile, and the speakers folded up when not in use, to make the design more compact.

The Universty Lessons

Castiglioni taught for many years, first at the Politecnico of Turin University, in 1969 and later leading a class in Industrial Design at the faculty of Architecture at Politecnico di Milano University, to a group of several thousand students.

The Exhibits & Awards

Castiglioni has exhibited his designs at every Milan Triennial since 1947 and has received seven Compasso d'Oro awards.

His Method

Castiglioni's method, to have "a constant and consistent way of designing, not a style" led him to help create new products to restore Italy's quality of life in the post-war years and to innovate upon the household object.

Most of Castilglioni's products are design classics and are still in production under licence. The MoMA has his most important designs in its permanent collection.


Castiglioni has a daughter Monica Castiglioni who is a jewellery designer. She owns the design store Anthias in Milan. She lives and works between Milan and New York.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Achille Castiglioni" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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