Feb 19, 2018

100 Years of Achille Castiglioni, the master of Italian Design

“There has to be irony, both in design and in the objects. I see around me a professional disease of taking everything too seriously. One of my secrets is to joke all the time.” – Achille Castiglioni

About Achille Castiglioni, the Master of Italian Design

Achille Castiglioni (1918-2002) was an Italian architect and designer who made a delightful variety of objects from lighting to furniture.

He was born and raised in Milan, the son of a sculptor, brother to Livio and Pier Giacomo who were also architects and designers. He studied architecture at Politecnico di Milano and graduated after serving in WWII. He passed away in 2002, but his influence has carried on. 

His legacy has been enthusiastically shared by his children, Carlo and Giovanna Castiglioni, co-founders of Fondazione Achille Castiglioni.




Fondazione Achille Castiglioni

The foundation is set in the studio space of Achille.

It functions as a non-traditional museum-like gallery. Reserve a tour and step into his creative process by observing his book and magazine collection, drafts/sketches, prototypes, and objects. His daughter Giovanna often guides the tours encouraging questions, participation, and interaction to help each visitor discover something new. Her eyes are filled to the brim with curiosity and creativity, a trait passed on perhaps.

This year celebrates 100 years of Achille through many events and exhibitions including 100×100 Achille at Fondazione Achille Castiglioni. The exhibit of everyday objects is gifted by some of the most important contemporary designers and curated by Chiara Alessi and Domitilla Dardi.

It will be open through the upcoming Milan Design Week 2018 !


Anonymous Objects
Studio Archives

The interview
5 Questions & Answers with Giovanna Castiglioni 

  1. ITALIANBARK: Who or what inspired Achille?

GIOVANNA CASTIGLIONI: He was inspired by anonymous objects…that is, things that were useful and cheap, for example daily objects like toys or rolling pins. He remained very curious to find inspiration everywhere- in new materials, especially in new bulbs from America, books and magazines. He also spent a lot of time in hardware stores.

  1. IB: What was his design philosophy?

GC: To reduce things to their essential elements. He was also committed to solving problems and simplifying designs during the process by being beside the workers. He wanted to solve problems for people because he was always curious about people in general.

For example the Lampadina in 1971 made for Flos was a lamp created with a base that could store the electric cord, as he was inspired by the film reel.



Lampadina, Photo Credit: MoMA


  1. IB: What is your favorite object of his?

GC: I have two if that’s alright?
IB: Of course!

GC: The first was his favorite too – a light switch that he designed with his brother (Pier Giacomo) in 1968 for VLM Electronics, a switch still in production. I created a necklace with the switch, he carried one in his pocket. It’s a really useful common object and symbol of good ideas.

Lightswitch Photo Credit: Pinterest


The second object is a lamp he designed for me in 1982, produced by Flos, that resembles a smiling face. It’s no longer in production, but called Giovi, short for Giovanna.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

  1. IB: What was he like as a professor?

GC: He loved so much to investigate his projects with the students and would often bring a suitcase full of anonymous objects. He explained things through objects, like form and function through scissors. I would sometimes follow him to university- it was amazing to see a man absolutely young and open in front of every object. He was enthusiastic about his life and enjoyed it.

  1. IB: Are there any contemporary architects or designers that you think have been influenced by Achille?

GC: There are many! Not just one. Many keep the irony alive, some interested more in form, others more in function. There’s a “piccolo Achille” in many, like Patricia Urquiola, Paolo Ulian, etc.

More about his Design
10 Objects by Achille Castiglioni 


1. MEZZADRO Seat, 1957 (Achille Castiglioni & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni)

Photo Credits: 1. achillecastiglioni.it, 2. ArchiProducts

2. ARCO Floor Lamp, 1962 (Achille & Pier Giacomo)

                                              Photo Credits: 1. MoMA , 2. Nikolas Koenig, 3.  HomeDSGN , 4. My Domaine

3.  TACCIA Lamp, 1958/62 (Achille & Pier Giacomo)

Photo Credits: via Pinterest,Pinterest


Photo Credits: 1. Skandium Ltd, 2. Chelsea, 3. MOHD

4. GATTO Lamp, 1960 (Achille & Pier Giacomo)

Photo Credits: 1. Chelsea  , 2. FLOS , 3. FLOS

5. SPLUGA Bar Chair, 1960 (Achille & Pier Giacomo)

Photo Credits: Pier Giacomo Castiglioni , Eurotubi

6. SNOOPY Lamp, 1967 (Achille & Pier Giacomo)

Photo Credits: ArchiProducts , Uprise Art

7. SPIRALE Ashtray, 1970

via Pinterest

8. SANCARLO Armchair, 1982

Photo Credits: 1. Archiproducts  2. Bonluxat 3. pinimg

9. TARAXACUM 88 Lamp, 1988

Photo Credits: 1. via Pinterest 2. FLOS   3. FLOS

10. HILLY Sofa, 1992

Photo Credits: pinimg pinimg

100 years of Castiglioni

They sure don’t make ‘em like Achille anymore. His designs, many of which are still in production, have been staples in many Italian and international homes throughout the years.

Check out more of his objects and head to one of the events dedicated to the celebration of his life and work.

100×100 Achille at Fondazione Achille Castiglioni 19 February- 30 April
Dimensione domestica atto III at Fondazione Achille Castiglioni
Achille Castiglioni Visionario in Chiasso, Switzerland at m.a.x. museo 19 May-23 September
Achille Castiglioni at La Triennale Milano October 2018-January 2019

Photos are credited to Fondazione Achille Castiglioni unless otherwise stated.

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