By way of celebrating designer Achille Castiglioni’s centenary Italian lighting manufacturer Flos used Milan Design Week 2018 to launch re-editions of two Castiglioni designs: Ventosa and Nasa.
Objects which in their own, small, ways allow for an insight into Achille Castiglioni’s approach to, and understanding of, design.
Born in Milan on February 16th 1918 Achille Castiglioni studied architecture at the city’s Politecnico before joining his brothers’ Livio and Pier Giacomo’s architecture and design studio: and it is arguably in connection with his brothers, for all with Pier Giacomo, that Achille Castiglioni is most popularly known.
What we believe is referred to as a “larger than life character” known for his humour, playfulness and enthusiasm, Achille Castiglioni, was, and as with the classic circus clown, a much more serious and theoretical designer than his public persona may have implied, and for all was a very close observer of the world around him and an almost obsessive collector of the apparently banal and mundane, objects others would ignore yet which inspired his questioning, analytical nature.
Characteristics which merge in objects such as the Sella and Mezzadro stools created by Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni for Zanotta with their bicycle and tractor seats respectively; in the Arco floor lamp for Flos which transforms street lighting into a floor based pendant lamp; in the Rampa storage unit for Bernini, an object inspired by the stands on which florists display their wears; and in the lamps Ventosa and Nasa.
Designed by Achille Castiglioni and initially released by Flos in 1974 Nasa is the sort of object which at first you stubbornly refuse to take seriously. Realise the folly of your ways, and then question your new found lucidity.
Essentially Nasa is a battery pack to which two wires are attached. At the end of each wire one finds a light bulb which you attach to the arms of your glasses, thus creating a transportable, functional, lightweight, minimal and thoroughly ridiculous reading lamp.
Playful, practical, humorous, keenly observed Nasa is in many regards more a design position than a product, is the basis for a discussion on design rather than design per se.
Ventosa in contrast is playful, practical, humorous, keenly observed and a design product.
Created by Achille and Pier Giacomo in 1962 in context of a project requiring the versatile illumination of a window display, Ventosa is nothing more complicated than a rubber tube with a light bulb at one end and a suction cup at the other. And as such is a lamp that can be attached to any flat surface to provide tailored lighting. Amongst the advertising photos from the 1960s one finds Ventosa attached to a shaving mirror, a wall-mounted telephone, a young man’s forehead and a bottle of whisky. You could however also attach it to the wall next to your bed, a dark corner in your kitchen/cellar/garage, or indeed a shop window. In many regards it is a charming companion piece to Flos’s Mayday lamp by Konstantin Grcic. Just a little more compact and versatile.
Yes it is on a cable and so wherever you attach it would have to be near plug, it ain’t not camping light, and in addition the rubber tube was a bit warmer than one expects from contemporary lighting, but as a lighting object it is without question one of the most enjoyable and logical we have seen of late, would have easily made it into our Light + Building Frankfurt 2018 High Five had Flos chosen to re-release it there, and reminded us very much of the old (apocryphal?) tale of the Americans spending millions to develop a pen to write in space while the Russians used a pencil: sometimes the simple things are the easiest and the best. But to understand that you have to observe, question, analyse and reformulate. Achille Castiglioni added irony and humour to the mix.
In addition to Nasa and Ventosa If you are not curious, forget it also includes a brief review of some of the Castiglioni’s lighting designs for Flos backed up by videos of Achille Castiglioni, more or less, explaining some of the key works. It is an in-store presentation in a brand’s Flagship store, but despite that a highly entertaining, informative and instructive overview of the variety of lights the brothers could and did realise and of Achille Castiglioni’s importance to the development of formal aesthetic, technical and functional aspects of lighting design. And why he remains today an inspiration and reference for so many designers.
Achille Castiglioni – If you are not curious, forget it can be viewed at Flos, Corso Monforte 9, Milan until Sunday April 22nd.