The Secret History Of: The Arco light

By Kate Watson-Smyth

Designed in 1962 by Achille Castiglioni and his brother Pier Giacomo, the Arco is essentially a floor lamp that works as an overhead light without the need for wiring. But that is to ignore the simple elegance and style that have made it, like many of the brothers' 150 products, a design classic that is still selling strongly today.

Born in 1918, Achille and his brothers, Pier Giacomo and Livio, were all trained as architects. Achille's philosophy was that as a designer you should be a problem-solver, dealing with issues that the consumer might not even realise are there.

A spokesman for the Design Museum said: "He maintained that in order to design a new product, or improve an existing one, you should first decide if it was necessary before looking at what technology and materials were available for doing do.

"He described this process as 'start from scratch, stick to common sense, know your goals and means'."

In an interview with the Design Museum, Paola Antonelli, design curator at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and an architecture student in Milan in the 1980s, said that Achille was one of the most popular tutors. "For his lectures he would arrive with a large black bag, from which he would extract and line up on the table that day's chosen pieces from his collection of found objects – toys made from beer cans, odd eyeglasses... wooden stools. These were the most effective tools of design instruction," she said.

Just as the Arco worked as an overhead lamp throwing light some eight feet away from its base, so his famous Sella stool – a bicycle seat on a round base – was, he said, for "when I use the phone. I like to move around but I would also like to sit, but not completely." His products were humorous and practical. The hole in the base of the Arco is not a design feature, it's for sliding a broom handle through so that two people can carry it.

During his prolific career, he worked with Flos lighting, Zanotta furniture and Alessi, taking care always to infuse his work with wit. Before his death in 2002, he lamented the "professional disease of taking everything too seriously" and said that one of his secrets was to joke all the time.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Magento Front End Web Developer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...

Investigo: management accountant

£250 - £300 per day: Investigo: Growing international marketing business requi...

Recruitment Genius: ORM / Online Reputational Consultant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ORM Consultant is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Facilities Manager

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of educat...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore