A Closer Look At: Achille Castiglioni in 10 Designs

The word visionary gets thrown around a lot in our industry. And yet for Achille Castiglioni and his brother Piero, it’s the only adjective that makes sense. Born one year before the founding of the Bauhaus School of the Arts, they took the institution’s democratising ethos a step further — transforming everyday objects into works of art. In their capable hands, there was no object too small or insignificant that couldn’t be made beautiful.


It’s an idea we’ve come back to as we try to get to grips with the monumental task of creating a circular economy — proof, if ever it was needed, that we still have much to learn from the old masters. It’s in this spirit that we’ll be taking a look back at the illustrious life of Achille Castiglioni with a little help from the revolutionary objects he created along the way.

Toio Floor Lamp

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Taccia Table Lamp

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‘It always seems impossible until it is done. Then it seems inevitable.” This simple adage has come to encompass a wide range of game-changing technologies, but it’s particularly helpful in understanding the philosophy behind some of Achille Castiglioni’s most successful designs. In 1962, Achille, alongside his brother Piero, launched 4 iconic lamps — all of which would go on to make history.

Arco Floor Lamp

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The most well-known of the 4 is easily the Arco Floor Lamp. The first of it’s kind, it sought to bring illumination to hard-to-reach spots without having to drill holes in the wall or ceiling. After much experimentation, the brothers settled on the idea of a counterweight — using a heavy marble base to balance out the dramatic arched stem.


Look closely and you’ll notice a hole in the base — drilled to help make moving the light easier. Simply slip a broom handle through and you have yourself a handy lever. Other luminaires in the collection were equally revolutionary. The Toio Floor Lamp (now available in a limited edition jet black version) was initially made by upcycling car headlights — giving a new meaning to industrial design.

Sanluca Armchair

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Sancarlo Chair

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Simplification was also very important to Castiglioni. Why waste resources on excess ornamentation when you can create a perfectly beautiful design with the essentials? This rejection of the superfluous is one of the many reasons his designs have maintained such timeless appeal today.


It’s an idea that’s best categorised by the Sanluca and Sancarlos chairs for Poltrona Frau and Tacchini Italia respectively. Both were inspired by the idea of removing traditional padding from contemporary armchairs — instead trusting in the science of ergonomics to create a supremely comfortable seating experience.


Ergonomic and cutting-edge, both designs reveal striking profiles, designed to support and embrace the body.

Radiofonographo Stereo

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In 1965, inspired by the swinging rhythms of the decade, Castiglioni set to work on the Radiofonographo Stereo. Nicknamed the musical pet thanks to its charismatic “face”, it features an original radio, record player and aux cable for all of your favourite devices.

Handcrafted using elegant timber, today’s edition retains the ability to be rearranged into three statement configurations.

Joy Rotating Shelf Unit

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Shapeshifting qualities can also be found in the Joy Shelving Unit for Zanotta. Wonderfully lithe, it takes the bulk out of traditional storage, instead opting for slender shelves that can be rotated at will. Versatile and stylish, it adopts new identities in every context — at times an elegant bookcase, in others a handy sideboard.

Mezzadro Stool

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Albero Flower Stand

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Castiglioni would go on to produce a total of 13 designs for Zanotta — each as avant-garde and practical as the Joy. One of our recently rediscovered favourites is the Albero Flower Stand — designed, as he put it, to invite vertical forests into contemporary living spaces.

Bulbo57 Pendant Light

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All of which brings us to the Bulbo57 Pendant Light, re-released this year by Flos as part of a glowing tribute to the life and times of this exceptional designer. An ethereal, barely-there design, it had long been overlooked for use in contemporary homes due to the difficulty in getting the intricate filaments to meet modern energy regulations. However, thanks to some clever engineering, the classic tungsten filament has been replaced with an efficient LED source that is just as delicate as the original.


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