Online | Design

New Definition

London, England

Achille Castiglioni's daughter introduces a new iteration of the classic Bulbo57 for Flos

‘My father was a normal man,’ reminisces Giovanna Castiglioni, daughter of Italian design titan Achille Castiglioni. This might surprise those who revere Achille and his brother Pier Giacomo, famous for their iconic 1962 Arco floor light, its vaulting arm anchored by a marble slab, and the endearing, asymmetric 1967 Snoopy table lamp, both created for lighting manufacturer Flos.

Of course, Giovanna means that Achille wasn’t grand: ‘His Milan studio wasn’t in a chic neighbourhood. It was conveniently located near the motorway — he could drive to Flos’s factory in an hour. My father had many clients, but he had a particularly strong relationship with Flos. He was very focused on work but loved other things — jazz, art, toys… He would temporarily steal my toys to study their mechanisms. My mum was a ceramicist. Together they made a wonderful couple. I miss her more than my father who is somehow immortalised by his designs.’

Originally designed in 1957, it typifies the brothers’ avant-garde predilection for stripped-down forms inspired by anonymous industrial objects, which they found aesthetically pleasing
Bulbo Triennale exhibition 1957
Achille Castiglioni in his studio with the original Bulbo lamp
The Castiglioni brothers with Dino Gavina and Marcel Breuer

At the Salone del Mobile last year, Flos unveiled a prototype of a new iteration of Achille and Pier Giacomo’s Bulbo57 light. Originally designed in 1957, it takes the shape of an oversized naked lightbulb and typifies the brothers’ avant-garde predilection for stripped-down forms inspired by anonymous industrial objects, which they found aesthetically pleasing. The finished, new version is made of blown, clear borosilicate glass and encloses an LED filament simulating one found in traditional incandescent lights. It was recently launched in London at Atrium, the sole distributor of Flos in the UK, where the ebullient Giovanna and I met. Several Bulbo57 lights can be hung from the ceiling in clusters from transparent cables that enhance their translucency to gravity-defying effect.

Giovanna Castiglioni with Bulbo57
Bulbo57 at Fondazione Castiglioni

Giovanna is curator of the Studio Museum of Achille Castiglioni at Piazza Castello 27, where the prolific designer’s studio was based from 1962 until 2002, the year he died. In 2018, with design writers Chiara Alessi and Domitilla Dardi, she co-curated 100×100 Achille, an exhibition to mark the centenary of Achille’s birth, in its gallery. This presented over 100 anonymous objects, such as paper clips and mousetraps, chosen and submitted by leading designers. She is also Vice-President and General Secretary of the Achille Castiglioni Foundation, and oversees her father’s archive.

She tells me that, during the Salone del Mobile this year, she hopes to hold an exhibition that will demonstrate an affinity between the work of her father and that of Arte Povera artist Alighiero Boetti, who died in 1994. Let’s hope it goes ahead: given these creatives’ shared interest in humble, overlooked materials it would make an interesting show.