Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Achille Castiglioni studio-museum

Just across from the Castello Sforzesco (Sforza Castle) in Milan in a magnificent building was Achille Castiglioni's studio, now transformed in a museum and part of the Triennale Design Museum. He passed away in 2002 at the age of 84 still very young at heart, still full of ideas and passion for his work. He received 9 (yes NINE) Compasso d'Oro including one for his lifetime achievements, not sure if someone else received so many. He is a legend in the world of Design. Please read more about him here.

Piazza Castello 27, Milano
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I recently visited the studio-museum and I was so lucky to receive from the Triennale a special permission to take pictures to show to my readers so I was able to return the next morning and after signing the form which allowed me to publish them, (but only for this Blog) I started shooting. Obviously all these pictures are strictly copyrighted and they cannot be used for any other purpose.
Please join me in the visit to this extraordinary and magic place and let's enter together the building.

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we are now in the courtyard where a trompe l'oeil just fools us.
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Approaching the front door of the studio, going up a few steps.
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We are now inside and you can see the large collection of magazines and books in the corridor. I was stunned and wished I had the time to see them one by one.
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I was greeted by Giovanna Castiglioni, his daughter, who exudes energy, enthusiasm, knowledge and who was able in less than 2 hours to give me a vivid portrait of her talented father, with an insight into his private life.I also had the pleasure of meeting his wife, Irma, a great woman behind a great man, who told me she tested every single prototype he created! When asked how was her life with such a husband she felt very emotional but she pulled her strength together and answered "It was easy". Those few words to me spoke of love and true connection of souls.
One day I also met the two collaborators who worked with him for more than 20 years. They are now busy listing and archiving all the documents, projects, drawings, invoices, every single detail of his prolific world. Giovanna said that every day they discover something new, buried in boxes.
Indeed you can still feel the presence of the genius since things were left exactly like when Castiglioni was working there.

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This set, like everything he created, explains his philosophy: he always wanted function over form and I am sure the cups do not slide on the saucer and the rings are big enough to hold them steadily, so everything looks beautiful but also perfectly functional.
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A simple sketch
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gives way to "Hilly" iconic sitting pieces with an appropriate name.

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On the table below on the right is the light "Gibigiana" which was created for his wife habit to read in bed. A genial use of a mirror which reflects light in one direction only.
He loved also to collect found objects, anonymous ones and eventually transform some in other kind of objects, for instance, being a smoker he was also attracted to the idea of transforming the spiral spring concept into an ashtray, easy to clean when you extract it and which can hold the cigarette while working. "Spirale" by Alessi, an ingenious solution created way back in 1970!
On the bigger ashtray you can also spot a white object: it is his model for a lead-switch which entered almost every house, anonymously... and sold in the number of millions. That made him very proud and reflected his philosophy of creating only functional objects.

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The armchair below called "Sancarlo" will be in production again soon (I was not told which company is interested in but I have some ideas and I will wait to see if they will be confirmed). The disposition of the pillows and the different level of support they offer makes it extremely comfortable. While I was sitting there Giovanna asked me my opinion and I bluntly said perhaps it needed some small pads for the arms, to avoid feeling the cold metal. She said that in the original drawings there were pads and she will consider to propose the change to the company in charge of production...! The low leather stool on the right was created to allow his wife to sit comfortably while working, she could kneel down and take the pressure off her back, again an idea much ahead of times. "Primate" produced by Zanotta.
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The mirror positioned diagonally in a corner of this room not only creates a wonderful effect (even if the vast studio did not need to look larger) but allowed him to look in different directions while working in the adjacent rooms and I was told that he enjoyed at times tricking visitors who, coming in, thought he was sitting in front of them and walked directly toward the mirror (if not worse...). The red threads above were installed during the 2009 International Furniture Fair (I Saloni) and they connect pieces of paper with writings and aphorisms by Castiglioni so reading them is like listening to his mind and soul "avec un fil rouge".Estate 2009 444

After collecting found objects he used to say it was better to leave them around, until they will become "ripe" and transform into ideas. From the sewing wood box below on the table (everyone has seen or owns one, it opens with a mechanism that reveals drawers) he invented a bed table top (I was told that he used to stack candies and chocolate there, being so fond of them...and even today visitors are offered treats from that same container).

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Another of his saying that Giovanna pointed out was: "If you are not not continue" referring mostly to the way he approached his students at the faculty of Architecture in Turin and later at the Polytechnic of Milan. She also gave us an image of her father going to teach in the morning with the weirdest objects coming out of his pockets and briefcase, just like a Mary Poppins figure.
Below is "Allunaggio" created in 1966 as a clever seat, again departing from another seat, the rowing wooden one you can see in the background. Irony and Function (note also the feet, made of three plain nylon disks).
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He took any challenge and created a game out it. For instance years ago Borsalino company launched a project for the creation of new hats, to be produced in limited edition, and challenged the most famous designers and architects like Gae Aulenti, Ettore Sottsass, Alessandro Mendini, Paolo Portoghesi and the like.
Castiglioni's point of departure?... pudding molds!

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What an extraordinary man, full of passion and humor, a legend in the Design world but also deeply loved by colleagues, family and friends. Huge talent accompanied by a young mind.
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A picture of him with Max Huber, one of the most significant graphic designers of the 20th century and below a thank you note by Ettore Sottsass, another icon.
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But he was also a humble man:
"The experience gives no certainty or security, but rather increases the chance of error. I would say that it is better to start from scratch each time with humility because otherwise the experience would be likely to turn into cunning".
"I don't judge my projects like they are signed by an artist, I am convinced that their production is always a team work"
A humble man, a great man.

To follow:
a post on Castiglioni's lighting projects. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

From Milan

You don't have an idea of how many evenings I have spent in this bar ( Bar Basso is the name) in Milan, since when I started University, with my large group of friends.


Hours of discussions on politics, philosophy, fashion, nice boys, bad girls, bad boys, nice girls, gossips, music, about trips, impressions on our first visit to Paris, to London...always with a huge "Mangia e Bevi" (eat and drink) in front of us (delicious ice cream, fresh fruit and a mixture of liqueur in a big Venetian blown glass bowl) or drinking those famous infamous cocktails of my youth: Negroni (or the "Wrong Negroni" with Spumante Brut instead of Gin, invented by the owner) Americano and Manhattan which I probably could not drink so easily now without consequences!
In winter we sat inside under the huge Venetian chandeliers, in spring and summer outside, grouping together as many tables and chairs as possible, to the delight of the waiters!
It was the first Bar for cocktails in Milan and for us it represented many first adventures of life and yes it was the fabulous Sixties, pre and post 1968, which revolutionized Italy like the rest of the western world.
"Ci vediamo al Bar Basso" we used to say "Let's meet at Bar Basso" and we knew we could go for aperitivo, pre-dinner or for cocktails after dinner and someone would be there for sure.

Bar Basso has become in recent years a "cult" place for designers coming from all over the world.

It all started when the son of the owner, returning from Berkeley, became a good friend of Marc Newson, Jasper Morrison, James Irvine and the like, so the Bar became the hub for the young designers and even more so after a memorable Party in 1999 when "the friends" decided to invite 40 people each...about 1000 people showed up..."Everyone was there"

Now it is considered during "I Saloni" a neutral zone where to meet, know each other better and brutally edit the list of endless events to follow the next day.
It is a nice place for a drink all year long and I still go there at times, alone or with some old friends!

You may also like to read:

Salone del Mobile 2009, Milano

"I Saloni" The Satellite Salone

"I Saloni" directly from Milan

Thursday, October 8, 2009

More days in Venice


To spend money

The above image represents a working space and Gallery with classic Murano glass reinterpreted with creativity.  Massimo Micheluzzi. Calle Della Toletta 107


A Venetian artisan, Stefano Coluccio, recreates the antique convex mirrors, witche’s mirrors? known also as Sorciere.   1173 Dorsoduro


Jonathan Ceolin creates lanterns, sconces and other Venetian lights with forged iron in the same way as in 17th Century. Secrets of the trade belong to the family for several generations and Jonathan uses them still today.  6106 Calle Marcello - Castello


Legatoria Piazzesi, Campiello de la Feltrina, San Marco
Beautiful paper, original patterns can be found at this address.


Alberto Cavalier has taken over his father's business as a "doreur" and a restorer. A grand artisanat d'art for antique lacquered or gold leaf finishes.   Campiello Loredan/Campo Santo Stefano

"Jesurum" One of my favorite places, famous for the most beautiful tablecloths, laces, embroidered sheets. Established in 1870.

Fifth generation of luxury textile production, the modern times famous "Rubelli" (which started in the XVI century) at Palazzo Corner-Spinelli hosts a collection of thousands of historic pieces.
You can even find here fragments of velvets from the end of 1400.

In the historic building Loredan-Falconi the Roberta di Camerino atelier remains in the same space that has seen in the 50's the beginning of the "tromp-l'oeil" of forms and colors on bags, scarves and garments. The purse "Bagonghi" was a favorite of Grace Kelly.

"Mercatino dei Miracoli"
Without fixed dates this Flea market is amazing for the treasures presented.
Mid century, rare books, photography, Sestiere Cannaregio, piazza Santa Maria Nova and streets around. Don't forget to visit the magnificent renaissance church of "Miracoli"

To admire Modern Architecture


Portale dei Tolentini. Former convent dei Tolentini, Santa Croce 191. Near San Nicolo' da Tolentino Church there is the main entrance to the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia, a project by Scarpa, between 1966 and 1978, realized putting together fragments of an ancient door made of Istria marble which was salvaged during the restoration of the building.

Santa Maria Formosa, Castello 5252 Tel 041 27 11 411. In 1949 Scarpa redesigned the entrance, the main floor and the garden of this historic 1500 palace. Still today it is a perfect example of the best restoration project in Venice. In the building there is also a magnificent library, a museum with a collection of Venetian paintings from 17th Century.

Casa delle Zattere. Fondamenta delle zattere. Building designed by Ignazio Gardella in 1958; the modern architecture became integral part of the delicate and fascinating historic context.

Punta della Dogana.
A new exhibition space for Contemporary Art, created by François Pinault, the French tycoon and major collector of French art, who has also bought the restored Palazzo Grassi. The project is by world famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando who restored the Dogana with the highest respect for its history giving new life to the red bricks of the facade and the wood beams inside. The fascinating place, suspended amidst water received also contemporary elements to create a perfect space for art exhibitions.

To buy art

Campo Santo Stefano San Marco 2765 Tel. 041 520 49 42. Contini Arte
A gallery as a reference point for international and national best names of modern and contemporary art.
More to come soon about a special collector and antiquarian.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A few days in Venice

To sleep and to dream
Cà Maria Adele. Dorsoduro 111, Rio Terà dei Catecumeni, Tel. 041 520 3078 Ca' Maria Adele. A romantic Hotel, near Chiesa S. Maria della Salute (a masterpiece of 17th-Century architecture),with 12 rooms and 5 "concept rooms". It offers a terrace, a lounge and a gorgeous living area 1950's style.

Casa de Uscoli. Campo Santo Stefano 2818, Tel. 041 241 0669 Casa de Uscoli. A renaissance building on the Grand Canal with 3 rooms and 3 apartments. Amazing art from Lucio Fontana, objects by Castiglioni and more.

"Oltre il giardino". San Polo 2542, Tel 041 2750015 Oltre il giardino. Charming and elegant Hotel with a beautiful garden. In the heart of the city where you will feel at home.

Eat and be happy

La Zucca. Santa Croce 1762, Tel 041 52 415 70.
A great Osteria, family owned, with a vegetarian menu and some delicious meat dishes.

Anice Stellato. Cannaregio Fondamenta Della Sensa 3272 Tel 041 720 744.
Typical Venetian dishes and great fish in one of the most appealing areas of Venice.

Avogaria. Calle dell’Avogaria 1629 Tel 041 296 04 91. A small and elegant restaurant with specialties from the South of Italy. They also offer 3 rooms for overnight guests and a private garden.

After dinner drinks
Skyline bar (Molino Stucky Hilton), Fondamenta San Biagio 810. Tel 041 2723311
On the 8th floor of the Hilton, with an amazing pool and an enchanting view over Venice.
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