Art&Style

Achille Castiglioni's studio in Milan

And the birth of the icons of Italian design

by Lavinia Colonna Preti
Achille Castiglioni’s studio in Milan — Lombardia Secrets

Achille Castiglioni's studio, in Piazza Castello in Milan, tells the birth of Made in Italy design through the objects and stories that inspired one of the greatest designers of all time.

If you love design, a visit to the ateliers of the great architects and designers of its golden age, from the post-war period to the economic boom of the 1960s, is a truly essential destination. Because, if left intact, they offer the extraordinary opportunity to perceive the designer’s vision and creative inspiration through her/his sketches, the books and magazines she/he collected, and the everyday objects that inspired her/him.

Among all, that of Achille Castiglioni, born in Milan (1918-2002) and graduated in Architecture in 1944, represents the very history itself of Italian design. Together with his brothers Livio (1911-1979) and Pier Giacomo (1913-1968), his genius has, in fact, contributed to giving birth to the phenomenon of industrial design in the 40s and the consequent mythization of Made in Italy as a synonym for high engineering, quality and style never subordinated to ephemeral fashions.

Achille Castiglioni’s studio in Milan — Lombardia Secrets
Achille Castiglioni’s studio in Milan — Lombardia Secrets

If you are not curious, forget it.

(Achille Castiglioni, architect and designer)

To give an idea of ​​his design legacy, it is enough to highlight that, in his career, he will win 9 Compassi d’Oro, the prestigious award established by the Industrial Design Association, 14 of his projects are exhibited at the MoMA in New York, and dozens of his creations are mentioned in some of the most famous literary and cinematographic works of all time, such as the Taccia table lamp starring in a Diabolik comic book and the Arco featured in the films Iron Man and Agent 007 – A cascade of diamonds, just to name a few.

The visit to the famous architect’s studio is divided into 4 rooms united by large bookcases that partly house his historical archive: to the right of the entrance, are the room where the anonymous objects are kept, which Achille Castiglioni loved to collect and use in his lessons at the Polytechnic of Turin, as well as the meeting room, while on the left you enter the room once occupied by the drawing tables and then the small study reserved for prototypes and models.

Achille Castiglioni’s studio in Milan — Lombardia Secrets

From the numerous projects scattered almost everywhere, it is clear that Castiglioni’s aim was to design not for form but for function, gradually removing from the design (at his time everything was born from sketches made by hand) what was not necessary in order to create objects of harmonious and essential beauty conceived to improve the life of the people who would use them.

In fact, among Castiglioni’s greatest sources of inspiration, we find commonly used objects that fascinated him and that he utilized, exploiting their functionality, to innovate areas other than the one for which they were born. Among the objects still in production, there are many examples that can be done: such as the Arco floor lamp designed for Flos, conceived as an indoor version of the classic street lamp, the first capable of directly illuminating a table without a light point fixed to the ceiling, or Lampadina, also made for Flos, whose wire winder at the base is inspired by a reel for cinema films. Or, among the seats, the Mezzadro stool, made with a perforated tractor seat, or Sella, born from a bicycle saddle, both by Zanotta.

Achille Castiglioni’s studio in Milan — Lombardia Secrets
Achille Castiglioni’s studio in Milan — Lombardia Secrets

Browsing here and there, in particular in the small cabinet of curiosities collected by the designer, there are also objects that Castiglioni loved for their shape, but which he had not yet used for any project. Like the brush to clean flues (which you see in the photos in the hanging bookcase) and which, who knows, maybe after a guided tour of the studio, could be able to inspire one of you.

And for true designer lovers, at this link you can find images and history of all the objects by Castiglioni that are still in production.

For further info

Achille Castiglioni Foundation

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