100 years
of Achille Castiglioni

An exclusive selection of the great designer’s masterpieces

Throughout his career, Achille Castiglioni produced a staggering array of masterpieces, ranging from key designs such as the famous Arco lamp to his extraordinary “ready-made” series — unique pieces born as combinations of pre-existing objects. It is these “ready-made” objects that define Castiglioni’s extraordinary creative stance, void of the need to invent new forms, where it is enough to assemble objects in a way never thought of before to create true masterpieces.

The ideas with the most dazzling immediacy and complexity — sleights of mind that, despite the evident presence of the object, leave you dumbfounded by the surprising beauty and functionality of the result — are born precisely from these anonymous objects that Castiglioni eagerly collected, pieced together with brilliant wit and almost clownish irony.

All Castiglioni needed to do was attach a bicycle seat to a rod and a semi-spherical base to create Sella, a stool on which to comfortably rock back and forth while using the phone. Or, to combine a tractor seat and crossbow, originally used to absorb heavy off-road movement, to produce Mezzadro and offer the most comfortable yet active seated position possible. Or, to simply disconnect a car headlight to create Toio, one of the most beautiful and classic lamps of all time.

Or, to combine a mundane light bulb holder with a suction cup to create Ventosa, the most simple and, consequently, ingenious portable lamp that could have ever been imagined, sticking to almost any surface, from the wall to your forehead, and reproduced by Flos in celebration of the 100 years since the birth of Achille Castiglioni which is now available online exclusively for YOOX.

It seems easy when you put it like that. But to succeed in creating, from pre-existing objects, an aesthetic and practical unit that goes above and beyond simply the sum of its separate pieces, and to transform it into something entirely new, requires an extraordinary sense of curiosity, a profound sense of culture, an extremely high level of intellect, and a sense of creativity free from preconceived ideas. It requires a great artist, in the absolute sense of the word. It requires Achille Castiglioni.

But where is this ingeniousness we speak of within the context of design?

With his distinctive wit, Bruno Munari said that, while an artist’s dream is for his work to reach museums, a designer’s is for his work to reach local markets.

But not only. A design masterpiece carries with it a certain poetic expression and vision of the world in which it was born and, if it truly is a masterpiece, this vision will last throughout time and enter into the collective imagination to become a true icon. Let’s look at it another way: In the 1971 007 film “Diamonds are Forever”, James Bond finds himself face to face with his arch-enemy Blofeld, sitting behind his desk framed between two Arco lamps, the great 1962 masterpiece of Pier Giacomo and Achille Castiglioni. After almost ten years, and then another fifty still, this iconic and immediately recognizable design undeniably represents what is considered to be true modernity, a futuristic aesthetic applied to the present with an apparently inexhaustible impetus and force.

A flawless paradox that accurately explains how a design object, unlike a work of art, must enter the world of everyday use and make us forget its uniqueness, in order to become the only possible form for such object.

So maybe that’s it, every designer’s secret dream: To remain present with the force of his ideas in objects that are perfectly balanced on the confines between the ordinary and the extraordinary, in a psychological and social territory that lies precisely between the museum and the local market. The territory where the genius of Achille Castiglioni lives.