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

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Profiling the Masters: Michael Graves

For while it is probably not possible to make a drawing without a conscious intention, the drawing does possess a life of its own, an insistence, a meaning, which is fundamental to its existence.  — Michael Graves

Few are credited with spearheading a single design movement; Michael Graves, well-known throughout the world for design excellence, led three.

A native of Indianapolis, Graves received his architectural training at the University of Cincinnati and Harvard University. In 1960, he won the Rome Prize and soon after began a nearly forty-year career teaching architecture at Princeton.

 

In the 1980s, Michael redirected the architectural conversation away from abstract modernism toward a more humanistic approach to architecture and urban planning, bringing color and art back into the experience of architecture.

Portland Building, Portland, Oregon

Humana Building, Louisville, Kentucky

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels

Michael Graves also transformed expectations for the role of the architect in society, in part through his product design work, which began with companies such as Baldinger, Sunar and Alessi.

Whistling Bird Teakettle and other associated products for Alessi

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Profiling the Masters: Isamu Noguchi

Image Courtesy of Noguchi Museum

Image Courtesy of Noguchi Museum

“Everything is sculpture.” – Isamu Noguchi

As we take a look at design throughout history, no list would not be complete with Isamu Noguchi.

Born in Los Angeles in 1904, the midcentury master is perhaps best known for his eponymous Noguchi Table, a coffee table made of two interlocking curly cues of wood, topped with a triangular glass slab.  First created in 1947, the table continues to be produced by Herman Miller today.

Image Courtesy of Herman Miller

Image Courtesy of Herman Miller

Although hard to believe, Noguchi initially studied pre-med at Columbia.  It was during evening sculpture classes on New York’s Lower East Side that Noguchi found his true calling.

Noguchi traveled extensively, maintaining studios in Japan and New York City, and completing large scale works in Mexico.

A political mural created in Mexico, 1936.

A political mural created in Mexico, 1936. Image courtesy Noguchi Museum.

With work ranging from sculpture to set design to ceramics to furniture and lighting, Noguchi was never one to limit his work to any single discipline.  Over his lifetime, Noguchi collaborated with choreographers Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham, composer John Cage, and even muralist Diego Rivera.

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Noguchi’s set design for Martha Graham’s Herodiade

Today, people flock to the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City, New York.  Established by the artist himself, the space includes a serene outdoor sculpture garden and galleries full of his work.

Noguchi Museum

What is your favorite work of Noguchi’s?

 

Profiling the Masters: Charles and Ray Eames

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“The details are not the details.  They make the design.” – Charles Eames

As we take a look at some of the masters of design, no list would be complete without Charles and Ray Eames.  This husband and wife team created more than just a style or look, but infused their work with the type of “serious fun” they came to be known for.

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From their bent plywood chairs,

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To the iconic Eames lounge chair and ottoman,

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To the colorful shell chairs.

shell chairs

In 1946, the Eameses first exhibited their experimental new plywood furniture at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and in 1948 the two participated in a low cost furniture competition hosted by the museum.

Beyond furniture, the duo built the Eames house in 1949 as their own private residence, made films, and designed showrooms and toys.  The Eames Office even designed the IBM Pavilion for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.

In the constant pursuit of new ideas, Charles and Ray Eames managed to create some of the most influential designs of the 20th century.  To this day, their work remains relevant, fresh, and innovative.  It’s been often said that the couple “just wanted to make the world a better place” and we couldn’t agree more.

What is your favorite design or quote by Charles and Ray Eames?