Pier Giacomo Castiglioni
Milan, Italy, 1913-1968
Who’s Who
Published Sep 19, 2013
Revised Dec 2, 2016
Pier Giacomo Castiglioni—nicknamed Popo—was a prominent Italian architect and a pioneer of Italian design. According to Dino Gavina, he was one of the ten best designers in the world.

The son of Giannino Castiglioni, a renowned Milanese sculptor, he graduated in architecture in 1937 from the Politecnico University of Milan, for which he designed the official signet in 1944.

In 1938 he established the famous Studio Castiglioni in Milan with his elder brother Livio (1911-1979) and also started working with Luigi Caccia Dominioni—another leading Italian architect and designer—with whom he collaborated until 1945.

In 1944 his younger brother Achille joined him and Livio at Studio Castiglioni and they officially worked all together until 1953, when Livio left the trio. However, Pier Giacomo and Achille continued collaborating during his entire life.

They also involved in their work many other prominent Italian designers including Anna Castelli Ferrieri, Bruno Munari, Enzo Mari, Erberto Carboni, Fulvio Bianconi, Giancarlo Iliprandi, Grazia Varisco, Heinz Waibl, Italo Lupi—who was Pier Giacomo’s teaching assistant at the Politecnico University—, Max Huber, Michele Provinciali, Pino Tovaglia, and others.

During his career, he worked on the whole field of design from architecture to exhibition design, on to furniture, product, and light design. He served many renowned Italian design companies including Alessi, Brionvega, Cassina, Flos, Gavina, and Zanotta as well as many major corporations such as ENI, Montecatini, Pirelli, and RAI.

In 1938 he started teaching at the Politecnico University of Milan, holding this appointment for his whole life. In 1954 he cofounded the Movimento Studi Architettura (Architectural Study Movement), while in 1956 he was a founding member of ADI—Associazione Disegno Industriale (Industrial Design Association), the first Italian design association for which he acted as a jury member of the Compasso d’Oro contest.

Many of the pieces he designed are now part of the collection of major museums such as the MoMA in New York and the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) in London. He also received numerous recognitions including five Compasso d’Oro awards (1955-1967), one Triennale Bronze Medal (1947), two Silver Medals (1957, 1960), two Gold Medals (1957, 1960), and two Triennale Grand Prix (1951, 1954).

He died in Milan in 1968.

Enjoy your reading,

 “Any shape is expressed in function of something. Any meaning that could be communicated through a shape can be identified as a function. So the choice of functions is the first act of design and it binds the creative process until the end”, 1965.

 “One of the key features of the design process is the logical commitment that links the formal expression to the content choices made by the designer”, 1965.

 “Pier Giacomo was an extraordinary gentleman of great elegance and sharp intelligence. A man of few words, who always showed extraordinary precision and determination,” Italo Lupi (Autobiografia Grafica, 2013).

 “The designer shouldn’t be seduced by a nice looking shape. He has to analyze and study the functions, the material, the needs of mass production, the prices. And until he has not acquired the knowledge of these aspects he should not be satisfied of his work”, 1953.

 “The judging criteria towards an object are always conditioned by the assessment—known or intuitable—of the situations from which the object comes and that the object will affect”, 1965.

 “The media more often talk about Achille than Pier Giacomo. But they are unaware that Popo (Pier Giacomo) was the fundamental reference of Cici (Achille). Pier Giacomo was the one who gave authority to their ideas,” Massimo Vignelli.

 “Thirty years after his death, Milan has not yet realized that one of his best sons, Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, has been the greatest master of Italian industrial design,” Dino Gavina, 1998.

Politecnico di Milano

The official signet of Milan Politecnico University, representing a detail from The School of Athens by Raffaello Sanzio.
Floor lamp (Flos)

Luminator is a generic name used in Italy to indicate a floor lamp casting light on the ceiling. Designed with Achille Castiglioni.

 “Somehow, Luminator was expressly designed for the 1955 Compasso d’Oro. It was our response to the need for a useful form,” Achille Castiglioni (Domus, 1995).
Stool (Zanotta)

One of the most famous and iconic pieces designed by the Castiglioni brothers. Mezzadro is a ready-made stool reinterpreting the typical seat of 1950s tractors. The leaf spring supporting the seat has been reversed to emphasize the apparently precarious balance of the seat. Manufactured since 1970. Designed with Achille Castiglioni.
Wire Book Case
Hanging bookshelf (Bernini, Karakter)

This elegant bookshelf reduces to only one the fixing points required to hang the whole unit on the wall. Originally presented in 1957, it was technically improved in 1966 to be officially launched on the market. Designed with Achille Castiglioni.
Stool (Zanotta)

Another iconic ready-made stool designed starting from a racing bicycle’s saddle. It was conceived as a telephone stool to enjoy an occasional seat while talking on the phone, which in the 1950s was always hanged on a wall. Manufactured since 1970. Designed with Achille Castiglioni.
Armchair (Gavina, Tacchini)

This beautiful armchair was designed in 1958 for the Milan Chamber of Commerce to combine comfort, lightness, and stackability. The original chair featured an iron frame, today replaced by ash wood. Designed with Achille Castiglioni.
Suspended Lamp (Venini, Kartell)

Originally manufactured in glass for the Milan Chamber of Commerce, it was later manufactured in plastic by Kartell. Designed with Achille Castiglioni.
Table Lamp (Flos)

Designed in 1958 and presented as a prototype the same year at the IIT Institute of Design (Illinois Institute of Technology), Chicago. It was released on the market in 1962. Thanks to its relatively large size, it is possible to use it also as a floor lamp. Designed with Achille Castiglioni.
Applique (Arteluce)

Designed for the stand of RAI at 1960 Radio Exhibition in Milan. The reflector is made from an aluminium plate suggesting the idea of radio broadcasting. Designed with Achille Castiglioni.
School desk and chair (Palini)

Following a bill issued by the Italian senate ordering the construction of 120,000 new schools and 260,000 desks and chairs, the Triennale launched a national competition for the design of school furniture. The Castiglionis with Caccia Dominioni presented several prototypes manufactured by Palini including T12, which was awarded the Compasso d’Oro 1960. The photo has been recolored and the colors may not be faithful to the real product. Designed with Achille Castiglioni and Luigi Caccia Dominioni.
Suspended Lamp (Heisenkeil, Flos)

An experimental lamp made with a sprayed fiber of plastic polymers that solidifying forms an elastic membrane. The Castiglionis saw this material used on American military vehicles in order to protect them from the weather and adopted it to build these lamps made by a wire steel structure covered by sprayed resin. Designed with Achille Castiglioni.
Lounge Chair (Gavina, Knoll, Bernini, Poltrona Frau)

This armchair comes from the idea of emptying the padding of the chair in order to reduce it to the essential curves needed to ergonomic support. The chair is made up of three elements: seat, backrest, and headrest. They are built separately and then assembled together. Designed with Achille Castiglioni and thanks to the technical support of Dino Gavina (between Achille and Pier Giacomo in the picture). Photo by Masera. (The image has been recolored.)
Umbrella Stand (Zanotta)

Part of the Servo series designed in 1961 with Achille Castiglioni. The series includes 13 products, all based on the same structure: ashtray, bedside table, coffee table, clothes hanger, exhibition display, flagpole, folding screen, lectern, queue barrier, towel stand, umbrella stand, valet stand, and vanity table.
Splügen Bräu
Suspended Lamp (Flos)

Designed with Achille Castiglioni for the Splügen Bräu beer house in Milan.
Floor Lamp (Flos)

Probably the most famous pieces by the Castiglioni brothers, Arco can light a table without the constraint of a lamp fixed to the ceiling or a bulky lamp because too close to the table. Designed with Achille Castiglioni.

 “Arco has nothing decorative. Any detail fulfills a practical function. Even the marble used as a counterweight, at equal weight with concrete, allows smaller overall dimensions and, given the finishing, a lower cost,” Achille Castiglioni (Ottagono, 1970).
Ideal Standard
Exhibition Design

Beer Dispenser (Poretti)

Made from two die-cast aluminium shells. The project was awarded the Compasso d’Oro 1964. Designed with Achille Castiglioni.
RAI Pavilion
Exhibition Design

Pavilion of RAI (Italian Radio and Television) at the 42nd Milan Fair. Graphic design by Enzo Mari.
Foldable Chair (Bernini, BBB)

Tric is a redesign of Thonet’s B-751 folding chair, that was first produced in 1925 and discontinued around late 1930s. Designed with Achille Castiglioni. The chair is today produced in beech wood and also transparent plastic. (The table portrayed in the picture is “Trac”, designed in 1976 by Achille to match the chairs.)
Table Lamp (Flos)

Metal top and marble base. The lamp looks like the head of Peanuts’ character Snoopy—the famous beagle invented by Charles M. Schulz—from which it takes its name. Designed with Achille Castiglioni. On the background, Pier Giacomo and Achille working in their Milan office.
Links & Docs
Pier Giacomo Castiglioni Memories

Treccani Pier Giacomo Castiglioni
Wikipedia Pier Giacomo Castiglioni

Pier Giacomo Castiglioni Official Website

ISAI Vicenza Piero Castiglioni
RAI Scuola I progetti e la creatività
YouTube Giorgina Castiglioni

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