Besides being the city of fashion, Milan is undoubtedly the city of design: during certain times of the year events which are famous all around the world such as Design Week and Triennale’s exhibitions transform the Lombard metropolis in a real open air museum of design. The roots of its leadership in the field can be found in the recent past’s major personalities who have lived and worked here: Giò Ponti, Vico Magistretti, Ettore Sottsass or Achille Castiglioni.
Achille Castiglioni (1918-2002) played a special and influential role in the history of Made in Italy, he was an architect and object, furniture, lamp and chair designer on top of anything that can be immediately useful in everyday life. Milanese to the core, he has been active throughout the second half of the twentieth century and he left an enormous amount of inventions and designs, carefully kept by his sons in his studio museum in piazza Castello. It is the Achille Castiglioni Foundation that collected the works of this extraordinary designer and the studio museum can be visited on appointment throughout the year.
Entering this elegant apartment of the late ‘800 and carefully visit it will be an exciting experience that will make you travel through the history of objects like the Arco and Toio lamps or Flos, the Mezzadro and Sella for Zanotta chairs or ashtrays and mayonnaise spoons for Alessi: all the major Italian brands have produced Achille Castiglioni’s creations and continue to produce them even though they were conceived forty or fifty years ago. They are Italian and international design classics which are now reproduced in the light of new technologies and new materials. In the AC studio museum you can see the designs, projects and inspirations, mostly coming from the poor and rural world of post-war Italy, when the utility of an object and its durability over time could make a difference in people’s lives; all topped off with an unusual irony and a Milanese taste for beauty.
Every year the Achille Castiglioni Foundation exhibits different furnishing objects in the headquarters of piazza Castello: this year the temporary exhibition is entitled “La dimensione domestica” (“The domestic dimension”) and reproduces the homey atmosphere created by Castiglioni in 1957 for the design exhibition at Villa Olmo in Como. It is amazing to see how current this reproduction is, as the furnishings are still desirable, the chair, the table, and how much we would like to have them in our living room.
The common denominator of Achille Castiglioni’s work are the idea, the simplicity, the beauty and the irony: that half-smile that unknowingly comes to us when we are faced with a flash of genius. Before redecorating your home or office take a trip to the Achille Castiglioni Foundation and you will realise the study effort behind the simplest things, such as a light bulb switch. Yeah, because Achille Castiglioni also created the switches and you probably use one every day before going to sleep without knowing that it is his creation.
Photo credit: Federico Ambrosi.