Archille Castiglioni is one of the most revered design masters of the 20th and early 21st century. Born in 1918, he pursued architecture at Milan Polytechnic and later joined a design studio to work alongside his two brothers Livio and Pier Giacomo. This was immediately after the World War II and a high demand of housing was being witnessed in Italy and the rest of Europe. After Livio left the practice in 1952, the collaboration remained between the other two brothers until Pier Giocomo died in 1968.
Much of their work consisted of exhibition design and several architectural projects plus some reconstructions e.g. the Palazzo della Permanente in 1952-1953 following its destruction by a 1943 bombing towards the end of the WWII. Some of their objects, like the Parentesi and Arco lamps are still in the market and exhibiting the same clarity and wit that characterized Achille's 1968 design.
Castiglioni's Professional Carrier
Over his long career spanning over five decades, Castiglioni designed many items including interiors, furniture, and exhibition installations, initially in collaboration with architect Luigi Caccia Dominioni. One of the products out of this era is the 1938 Caccia cutlery set, which remains in production and ubiquitous in Italian homes. In 1939, these two designed the 5-valve radio receiver produced by Phonola. This was the first radio design to deviate from the heavy cupboard setup and introduced a new trend of organic design using plastic.
Castiglioni’s designs exhibited paradoxes and bore a new perception of wisdom. The “Sella” is an illustration of this rare character in design, developed in 1957 in association with Pier Giocomo. This pivoting stool earned the Castiglionis a “Dadaist” label amongst designers due to its use of an existing object in an unusual context.
Castiglioni's Design Approach
Castiglioni's design approach was like for other contemporaries like Ettore Sottsass and Marco Zanuso was highly influenced by the prevailing cultural climate. The combination of trends that made Italian design what it is today benefited the designers of the time in many ways, and Castiglioni was no exception. Part of these factors is: Italy’s culture of skillful craftsmanship, and the other, the WWII disruptions that created a high demand for newly designed environments as part of the physical and socio-economic restoration of Italy to its former glory. This poised Italy for a design renaissance in the 1950s reinforced by the harmony among the seemingly desperate culture, economy and technology towards a common goal of post-war recovery.
In his later years, Castiglioni lectured Architecture and design in Universities and spread his design philosophy to his many students. His teaching style peculiarly merged anthropological design approach to advanced manufacturing processes and technology as seamlessly as he did his designs. He completed his teaching career at the Architectural school in the Polytechnic of Milan where he taught Industrial design.
Castiglioni viewed the world as a catalogue of wonderful ideas for a designer to adopt in the creation of objects, and his products revealed results of the best combination of exuberant talent, wit, technical skills and utmost dedication. Consequently, Archille Castiglioni curved his own niche and rightfully earned his position as one of the most prolific designers of the 20th and 21st centuries before his death in 2002.