Showing posts with label Piazza Castello. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Piazza Castello. Show all posts

16 February 2019

Achille Castiglioni - designer

Leading figure in post-war Italian style

Achille Castiglioni regarded furniture-making as art
Achille Castiglioni regarded
furniture-making as art
The designer Achille Castiglioni, whose innovative ideas for lighting, furniture and items for the home put him at the forefront of Italy’s post-war design boom, was born on this day in 1918 in Milan.

Many of his designs, including the Arco floor lamp for which he is most famous, are still in production today, even 17 years after his death.

The Arco lamp, which he designed in 1962 in conjunction with his brother, Pier Giacomo, combined a heavy base in Carrara marble, a curved telescopic stainless steel arm and a polished aluminium reflector.

Designed so that the reflector could be suspended above a table or a chair, the Arco was conceived as an overhead lighting solution for apartments that removed the need for holes in the ceiling and wiring, yet as an object of simple chic beauty it came to be seen as a symbol of sophistication and good taste.

The Arco lamp, anchored in a block of marble, is perhaps Castiglioni's most famous creation
The Arco lamp, anchored in a block of marble, is
perhaps Castiglioni's most famous creation
The Arco was commissioned by the Italian lighting company Flos, which still produces numerous other lamps designed by Castiglioni.

Achille’s father was the sculptor Giannino Castiglioni. His brothers Livio and Pier Giacomo, both older, were architects.

He initially studied classics at the Liceo classico Giuseppe Parini in Milan, but switched to study the arts at the Liceo artistico di Brera. In 1937 he enrolled in the faculty of architecture of the Politecnico di Milano.

As was common for young Italians of his generation, the Second World War interrupted Achille’s progress. He joined up, became an officer in the artillery, and was stationed on the Greek front and later in Sicily, returning to Milan just before the Allied invasion of 1943. In March 1944 he was able to graduate.

The Mezzadro chair incorporated a tractor seat mounted on a metal and wood base
The Mezzadro chair incorporated a tractor seat
mounted on a metal and wood base
He joined the studio his brothers ran with Luigi Caccia Dominioni, another young Italian architect and designer. They designed interiors and created products, among them the Fimi-Phonola 547 radio, an extraordinary piece in metal and moulded bakelite that fulfilled the need to be inexpensive but was uniquely stylish.

After the war, Italy entered a kind of mini-Renaissance, inspired with the sense of a new beginning. Designers gave free rein to their imagination, often placing art above functionality in the design process. Castiglioni managed to marry the two.

When Livio left in 1952, Achille and Pier Giacomo continued to work together on innovative, sleekly modern designs for everyday objects and appliances. One creation, a vacuum cleaner in red plastic with a leather strap that the user could carry on his or her back, made for the REM company, can now be found in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, along with more than a dozen other Castiglioni designs.

Lighting was always Achille Castiglioni's speciality, enabling him to indulge his fascination with symbolism and theatricality. From the 1960s to the ‘80s, seen as Milan’s heyday as the city of design - he applied the same creative strategy to a wide range of projects, as diverse as hi-fi equipment and hospital beds.

Castiglioni's unique bakelite radio, the  Fimi-Phonola 547
Castiglioni's unique bakelite radio, the
Fimi-Phonola 547
He embraced the concept of using ‘found objects’ to create unusual but functional furniture, such as his Sella - saddle - stool, which featured a bicycle seat atop a pole with a rounded base designed as a telephone stool. Another seating solution, the Mezzadro, incorporated a tractor seat.

In his later years, after Pier Giacomo's death, Achille remained active in the studio in Piazza Castello but also went back to college, this time to lecture in design, first at the Polytechnic of Turin and later as a professor at the Polytechnic of Milan.

Castiglioni, who was one of the founding members of Association for Industrial Design (Associazione per il Disegno Industriale), established in 1956, died in 2002 at the age of 84. He was survived by his wife, Irma, and three children.

Castiglioni's studio, now a museum, is close to Milan's magnificent Castello Sforzesco
Castiglioni's studio, now a museum, is close to Milan's
magnificent Castello Sforzesco

Travel tip:

Castiglioni’s studio in the Piazza Castello in Milan has been turned into a museum, looked after by his youngest daughter, Giovanna. It is also the headquarters of the Fondazione Achille Castiglioni, established in 2011 to celebrate his work but also to promote innovative and stylish design. Piazza Castello is the semi-circular space surrounding the Castello Sforzesco, Milan’s impressive 15th century castle, which can be found about a 20-minute walk from the Duomo in a northwesterly direction. The Fondazione, at Piazza Castello 27, is open to the public via guided visits only, which take about an hour and cost €10. For more information, visit

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The main building of the Politecnico di Milano in Piazza Leonardo da Vince in the Città Studi
The main building of the Politecnico di Milano in
Piazza Leonardo da Vince in the Città Studi
Travel tip:

The Politecnico di Milano was founded in November 1863 by Francesco Brioschi, secretary of the Ministry of Education and rector of the University of Pavia. It is the oldest university in Milan. Originally, only civil and industrial engineering were taught. Architecture was introduced in 1865 in cooperation with the Brera Academy. There were only 30 students admitted in the first year; today, there are 42,000. Its central offices and headquarters are on Piazza Leonardo da Vinci, located in the historical campus of Città Studi in Milan, about 3.5km (2 miles) northeast of the city centre.

More reading:

How Marco Zanuso's ideas put Italy at the forefront of contemporary design

The Rome designer who became England's Royal jeweller

Flaminio Bertoni: car design as sculpture

Also on this day:

1740: The birth of Giambattista Bodoni - printer and type designer

1970: The birth of footballer Angelo Peruzzi

1979: The birth of multiple world motorcycling champion Valentino Rossi

(Picture credits: Mezzadro chair by Sailko; Watch by austincalhoon; Castello Sforzesco by Gpaolo; Politecnico by Luigi Brambilla; all via Wikimedia Commons)


23 November 2016

Ludovico Einaudi – composer

Musician world famous for his unique blend of sounds

Ludovico Einaudi takes the applause after a  performance at the Palazzo del Quirinale
Ludovico Einaudi takes the applause after a
performance at the Palazzo del Quirinale 

Pianist and film music composer Ludovico Maria Enrico Einaudi was born on this day in 1955 in Turin.

Einaudi has composed the music for films such as The Intouchables and I’m Still Here and has released many solo albums for piano and orchestra.

His distinctive music, which mixes classical with contemporary rhythms of rock and electronic, is now played all over the world and has been used as background music and in television commercials.

Einaudi’s mother, Renata Aldrovandi, played the piano to him as a child and her father, Waldo Aldrovandi, was a pianist, opera conductor and composer, who went to live in Australia after the Second World War.

Einaudi's grandfather, Luigi Einaudi, was President of Italy from 1948 to 1955
Einaudi's grandfather, Luigi Einaudi, was
President of Italy from 1948 to 1955
His father, Giulio Einaudi, was a publisher, who worked with authors Italo Calvino and Primo Levi, and his grandfather, Luigi Einaudi, was President of Italy between 1948 and 1955.

Einaudi started composing his own music and playing it on a folk guitar when he was a teenager.

He began his musical training at the Conservatorio Verdi in Milan, obtaining a diploma in composition in 1982. He took an orchestration class with the composer Luciano Berio, in which, according to Einaudi himself, he learnt to have a very open way of thinking about music.

He started by composing in traditional forms and some of his music was performed at Teatro alla Scala and the Arena in Verona.

Listen to Einaudi's beautiful Due Tramonti from his album Eden Roc

By the mid 1980s, Einaudi had begun to express himself more personally in the music he created for theatre, video, dance and film. 

He composed the music for Acquario in 1996, for which he won the Grolla D’Oro, an Italian film award, for the best sound track.

In 2000 his sound track for the film Fuori del mondo was nominated for an Oscar and he won the Echo Klassic award for it in Germany in 2002. Einaudi also won the award for best soundtrack at the 2002 Italian Music Awards for the film Luce dei miei occhi.

In 2004, his soundtrack for Sotto falso nome won a prize at the Avignon Film Festival. Einaudi has written the scores for, or had his music included, in many other films.

Le Onde, Ludovico Einaudi's first solo piano album
Le Onde, Ludovico Einaudi's first solo piano album

His first solo piano album, Le Onde was released in 1996 and has been followed by a string of successes. Divenire, in 2007, considered the most musically ambitious, has been his greatest commercial success to date. The latest, Elements, featuring piano, electronic and orchestral music was released in 2015.

Einaudi has travelled all over the world performing his own music. His concerts in Birmingham last night and in Glasgow tonight, the evening of his birthday, have both sold out in advance of the performance and his concerts in Milan from December 8 to13 are already sell-outs.

In 2005, Einaudi was awarded the Ordine al Merito della Repubblic Italiana (OMRI), a senior order bestowed by the Italian Republic, which is the equivalent of a Knighthood.

Turin's Piazza Castello
Turin's Piazza Castello
Travel tip:

Turin, where Einaudi was born, is the capital city of the region of Piedmont in the north of Italy. It is an important business centre, particularly for the car industry, and has a rich history linked with the Savoy Kings of Italy. Piazza Castello, with the royal palace, royal library and Palazzo Madama, which used to house the Italian senate, is at the heart of royal Turin.

Travel tip:

Einaudi followed in the footsteps of many famous Italian composers by receiving a musical education at Milan’s Conservatory of Music (Conservatorio di Musica ‘Giuseppe Verdi’), which is in Via Conservatorio, just off Via Pietro Mascagni, behind the Duomo. It is just a short walk from there to Teatro alla Scala in Piazza della Scala, with its fascinating museum focusing on the history of opera. 

More reading:

Ennio Morricone - the maestro of the film soundtrack

How The Godfather turned Nino Rota into a household name

Eros Ramazotti - bestselling singer-songwriter

Also on this day:

1553: Born: Prospero Alpini - the botanist who told Europe about coffee 

(Picture credits: pictures of Ludovico Einaudi and Luigi Einaudi courtesy of Presidenza della Repubblica; Piazza Castello by cheniyuan; all via Wikimedia Commons)