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
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.
we are now in the courtyard where a trompe l'oeil just fools us.
Approaching the front door of the studio, going up a few steps.
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.
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.
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.
A simple sketch
gives way to "Hilly" iconic sitting pieces with an appropriate name.
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.
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.
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".
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).
Another of his saying that Giovanna pointed out was: "If you are not curious...do 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).
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!
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.
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.
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.
a post on Castiglioni's lighting projects. Stay tuned!