June 25, 2018

Q&A: Giovanna Castiglioni on Her Father Achille’s Legacy

The Flos showroom in New York featuring Achille Castiglioni designs
The Flos showroom in New York featuring Achille Castiglioni designs. Photography by Roey Yohai Photography.

The daughter of Achille Castiglioni, Giovanna Castiglioni works to raise awareness on his impact and keep his designs in production through the Fondazione Achille Castiglioni. It’s important work, and to her, of course, it’s deeply personal. As part of a year-long celebration of Achille’s centennial, Flos reproduced two dynamic designs that speak to the master’s playful approach. Interior Design sat down with Giovanna at the Flos showroom in New York to chat about the celebratory year and the challenge of battling counterfeits.

Achille Castiglioni: An Innovator of Lighting Design

Giovanna Castiglioni  with her arms around a cardboard cutout of her father Achille Interior Design: Tell me about the two reintroductions with Flos.

Giovanna Castiglioni: Ventosa was designed in 1962. If you need a light, you can use the suction cup on a mirror or on a window. I love this because it is very functional and timeless. The idea is to move it wherever you want. I have one with me… you can also use it like this (sticks a lamp on her forehead). 

Nasa, designed in 1974, is another way of remembering Achille. In this case you have just two little lamps that you can put on your glasses. I think Achille had the best sense of humor. He enjoyed life very much. He said to his students: if you’re not curious, forget it. It’s true especially today, when society moves so fast and you have to be connected all the time. My father probably lived in a wonderful period—no Internet, no email, no WhatsApp. He had time to be careful with every single detail.

Three small lamps in black, yellow and blue for Flos
Ventosa lamp by Achille Castiglioni for Flos.

ID: It must be nice to reproduce these more playful products and to show the full spectrum of his design language.

GC: Achille’s goal was to solve a problem every time and to put a light wherever you need it—in the corner, on a desk, on the floor. Sometimes you can play with it, or sometimes it’s a serious lamp. But Arco is still in production because it has a specific shape. Arco is just an arch—simple, with few elements.

Archival images of a rotary phone and lighting fixtures by Achille Castiglioni

ID: What types of things are you doing with the Fondazione Achille Castiglioni to keep your father’s legacy alive?

GC: We will have an exhibition at the Triennale in October. We have another exhibition regarding the relationship between graphic designer Max Huber and Achille Castiglioni in Switzerland. We also have an exhibition in our studio regarding anonymous objects. My father was a big collector of objects. We asked 100 designers to give us a little gift, and not spend too much money on it. We received more than 100 pieces from all over the world. Philippe Starck gave us a paperclip. Michael Anastassiades gave us rocks used for massages. Konstantin Grcic gave us a weight. It’s really nice to celebrate anonymous objects, which are at the base of industrial design.

ID: What are some of your personal goals for the foundation in the coming years?

GC: We have to preserve it. My father wasn’t a businessman. The family supported the foundation, but also we ask companies and other institutions to help us. We continue to open the door to every visitor, but at the same time it’s really hard to keep the heritage alive in a good way. We have to be careful—when you curate a new exhibition, you have to be strict and serious about it, but we don’t want to remember Achille in a sad way. We want to smile.

ID: How do you try to control knock-offs?

GC: It’s really hard to control something like that. Achille said every time, if you copy, it means you like it. So for my father it was a compliment. Now you have to preserve the legacy and also the companies have to be careful. We have a lot of people who send us pictures of copies, and we forward them to Flos.

I continue to say, if you want to copy, you can only do it when you are young. Because if you are young you can disassemble an object to understand why a designer created a specific object. After a few years at a university, you have to be able to design new things. Put your energy into finding a good company that believes in your project. If you copy, it’s not good for you, and that’s it.

A pair of eyeglasses as a lamp by Achille Castiglioni for Flos.
Nasa lamp by Achille Castiglioni for Flos.
Achille Castiglioni in a bowtie and jacket
Achille Castiglioni with Nasa lamp, 1974.

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