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100 Presents for Achille Castiglioni

Feb 26, 2018

On the 100th anniversary of his birth, 100 designers present 100 everyday objects as a way to celebrate the legacy of the influential Italian mastermind

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Text by Rab Messina
Photography by courtesy of the Achille Castiglioni Foundation

“Think of a designer, any designer… and I bet they’re in there,” said Giovanna Castiglioni with pride, pointing to the dozens of signed greeting cards on the wall at the Achille Castiglioni Foundation. That collection is, indeed, a who’s who of contemporary design: from Michael Anastassiades to Marcel Wanders, from homegrown legends like Alessandro Mendini to rising stars like Formafantasma.

Across the wall, the vitrines are full of the objects that these designers-turned-selectors brought along to celebrate what would have been Castiglioni’s hundredth birthday —the designer passed away in 2002, leaving a trail of celebrated pieces for the likes of Alessi, Flos and Zanotta.

Curated by Chiara Alessi and Domitilla Dardi, this gathering has been christened 100×100 Achille, a donation of 100 objects from 100 designers to celebrate Castiglioni’s 100 would-be years. It’s both a chorale song against overdesign and a playful wink to Castiglioni’s penchant for anonymous knick-knacks —like the utilitarian found objects and odd plastic toys that still fill the display cabinets in his former studio in Milan, where the Foundation is housed today. While Philippe Starck picked a paper clip and Piero Lissoni donated a set of bonsai scissors, Simone Farresin and Andrea Trimarchi sent a humble yet sturdy broom.

“He appreciated the innovative character and simplicity of these objects, and the clever functionality of their design,” explained Giovanna, his daughter, who oversees the Foundation with her brother Carlo. These birthday gifts, mostly inexpensive and of unknown origin, are a symbolic addition to the master’s cabinet of anonymous curiosities. And just like a birthday party, it’s a hilariously joyful (visual) feast for all involved.

And for those visiting the exhibition during the Salone del Mobile days —the institution is one of the Foundation’s partners–, there’s an added treat: students from Castiglioni’s old stomping ground, the Milan Polytechnic School of Design, are presenting their own collection of anonymous objects at Fieramilano Rho.

100×100 Achille is on display in Milan until April 30, 2018. Fear not: it’s traveling overseas after its home run. In the meantime, Corraini Edizione has published a catalogue, with essays by the Castigioni siblings, Alessi and Dardi.

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Handwritten and handpainted greeting cards by the 100 participating designers
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The exhibition setup, done by Studio Calvi Brambilla
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Piero Lissoni selected a set of scissors for bonsai trees
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Formafantasma picked a sorghum broom
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Marcel Wanders sent a paper festoon for the birthday celebrations
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