64 PIONEERS ACHILLE CASTIGLIONI
LIGHTING • JUNE2015
concept by his friend Pio Manzù. It won a Compasso
Castiglioni’s contribution to Italian design went
beyond his legacy of invention. He was highly conscious
of being part of the network of Italian product design
and played a central role in building up the collective
strength of the nascent industry. In 1947 he joined
the organising committee of the Milan Triennale
and continued to be involved for many years. He co-founded the Italian Association for Industrial Design
(ADI) in 1956 and helped establish the prestigious
Compasso d’Oro awards (which he won nine times).
He was also a born educator eager to share his vision
with new generations of architects and designers.
At various times between 1969 and 1993 he taught
industrial design at Turin’s Faculty of Architecture
and the architecture department of Milan Polytechnic.
MoMA’s Paola Antonelli, studying at Milan in the
eighties, recalls that Castiglioni was one of the most
He was equally celebrated in the wider design industry.
In the UK he was recognised as an Honorary Member
of the Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry at the
RSA in 1986; was awarded an honorary degree from the
Royal College of Art in 1987; and received an annual
award from the Chartered Society of Designers in 1993.
But when lists of awards and honours have been
consigned to the archives and forgotten, what will
remain is that legacy of unique, extraordinary
furniture, homeware and, above all, lamps. He would
probably love the fact that many are being updated for
the modern world, with incandescent-based classics
like Arco, Taccia, Parentesi and Lampadina coming out
in LED versions.
Achille Castiglioni followed no school of design and
refused to put a label on his work. ‘What you need is a
constant and consistent way of designing, not a style,’
he said. And while his work is indelibly associated with
Italian post-war modernist design, he believed design
itself should be timeless. ‘Design shouldn’t be trendy.
Good design should last over time, until it wears out.’
He retained his curiosity, wit and instinct for form and
shape throughout his life.
In 1988 he updated an earlier design to create the
Taraxacum 88 pendant light for Flos – a wondrous
cluster of halogen bulbs that became another instant
classic. Clear Globolux lamps slot into pressed,
polished aluminium triangles to create a dramatic
shimmering globe. And, of course, there is a witty
allusion. Taraxacum officinale is the common
dandelion – and the luminaire does have the beautiful
delicacy of a dandelion clock, just before the seeds drift
away on the wind…