Profiling the Masters: Achille Castiglioni

“If you aren’t curious, forget it!”

Achille Castiglioni’s work was marked by inventiveness, humor, and playful creativity. On this day, he would have been 100 years old, and his rich career in architecture and design still inspires and delights today.

Born on February 16, 1918 in Milan, Italy, he started working with his brothers Livio and Pier Giacomo on design projects from a young age. He graduated in architecture in 1944 from the Politecnico di Milano, and then followed a path based on his interest in shapes, techniques and materials. In 1956, he was one of the founding members of the ADI (Association for Industrial Design). After the death of his brother Pier Giacomo in 1968, he continued to work as an independent designer, architect, and urban planner.

Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni

In fact, it was this background in architecture that made Achille such an inventive and imaginative designer, and he was one of the leading creative minds to define the postwar Italian design renaissance. His work was the product of artisan craftsmanship and a passion for expressive forms. He often used unexpected materials and to create something completely original, to give solutions to unmet or unknown actual needs – as seen in the Arco floor lamp, one of his most famous pieces, designed with his brother Pier Giacomo in 1962.

With the vision of an architect, he and his brother were able to combine three materials – marble, stainless steel, and aluminum – into a piece that seems to defy gravity. Using technical knowledge and awareness of space, they developed a floor lamp that stretches 7 feet from the base to the hanging shade, completely redefining the space around it. A heavy marble base was made mobile with two holes for transport by inserting a broom handle.

Arco, for Flos

Achille’s designs were often inspired by everyday items and always with an authentic and humorous point of view. This brought him to work for a wide variety of manufacturers, including Alessi, Cassina, Flos, Kartell, and Zanotta. For this, many of Achille Castiglioni’s iconic designs are timeless, original, and functional, and are still in production today.


Snoopy, for Flos

Mezzadro Stool

AC04 Fruit Bowl, for Alessi

Spirale, for Alessi

As a professor at the Politecnico di Milano, he imparted his unique perspective to students of architecture and design. In his lifetime, he won numerous awards, including nine Compasso d’Oro, Italy’s premiere industrial design award. In 1997, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held an exhibition of his work. He remains one of the 20th century’s most imaginative and creative designers.

Learn more about the masters of design here.

Photo credit: Flos, Alessi

Sources: Alessi, Flos, Design Within Reach

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