CELEBRATING ITALIAN DESIGN
Welcome to the part of the site where we commemorate our favourite Italian designers. Famous for innovation, creativity and uses of colour; Italian design brought in a new era of modern design that has influenced contemporary lighting to this day. We intend to celebrate a couple of the designers on this page, because we feel they deserve a lot of recognition for their efforts!
Achille & Pier were two iconic masters of light, with the determination to implement their creativity within the domestic space. Fiercely talented and rigorous in method; the Catiglioni brothers would collect objects to increase their appreciation of modern design. All three of the brothers,: Achille, Pier, Livio, however, heralded from an architectural background, and used the objects they had collected throughout their lives as a lens to understand their own work. For instance, their experiences meant they had a strong appreciation for form and function, but they understood that these weren’t the only concerns a designer should focus on. The Italian brothers helped usher in an era of contemporary modern design, using current objects and re-inventing them in colour and form.
However the real ‘Master of Light’ is renowned Italian artist Gino Sarfatti, dubbed so for his efforts in shaping the modern Italian architectural movement throughout his lifetime. Born in Venice in 1912, Sarfatti didn’t enter the world of lighting until 1939. Throughout this 30 year stretch of his life he designed over 400 lighting fixtures, researching typology, production technologies and design aspects. He was a revolutionary when it came to working with new methods; first using plexi-glass in 1951, and later, designing the first lamp to use halogen bulbs in 1971. His experimentation gifted him the title he so greatly deserves, and why Iconic Lights chooses to memorialise him here alongside fellow Italian designers.
Valenti Luce created 'Pistillo' in 1969, with the light taking its form and name from the cluster of pistils at the heart of a flower. Through the guidance of Renzo Pighi and his brother Diego, Luce created several successful designs, including the Medusa, Pistillo and Hebi lamps. Contact with important designers of the period and with experimental processes, ensured Luce became a leading Italian lighting star of the 1960s. He became a reference for the new generation of designers. 'Pistillo' focuses on the life of a flower, in with each stem carries the pollen that will be spread by insect or the wind. Within the design structure the stems and their spherical tips are chromed and the reflective surfaces help to multiply and spread the light emitted by the one small bulb at the centre of the light. Pistillo borrowed both conceptually and formally from nature to create this unique, innovative lighting structure. Luce was a fierce believer in function and colour, similar to the Castiglioni brothers, and this would become a staple of Italian design over the next decades.
Joe Colombo was born in 1930 in Milano, Italy. Colombo would become one of the most renowned Italian, industrial designers. Until 1949 he was educated at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, the academy of fine arts. Colombo continued after as an active painter and sculptor for Abstract Expressionism. In 1955 Colombo joined the Art Concept Group, but gave up his painting to promote his Design Career. The arched Coupé lamp is thought to represent an element of space design that enables us to escape the central light point. Colombo looked to dismantle the many clichés of bourgeois lifestyle, his work having a vast revolutionary influence on design over the years.
Luciano Vistosi was originally born in Murano in 1931, spending most of his childhood and teenage years working in the family kiln, where he learnt techniques concerning the moods, colours, sounds and tastes of traditional glass craftsmen. His search for absolute designs, led him to put quality of materials first, closely followed by style. As an artist he had a strong belief that drawings were only the starting point of a design, eventually leading to the creation of his glass sculptures. From the sixties onwards he held a number of solo exhibitions and partook in various exhibitions from Venice to San Francisco, from Madrid and Cologne to Japan. Vistosi created these mushroom-like lights at the request of Artemide's director Ernesto Gismondi in 1978. The simple design was easy to manufacture, and over the years it has remained in production and become a classic. His family of lights including table and floor versions was produced for ten years.
Fortuny believed you could only improve the quality of a product by having a good knowledge of its raw materials and construction. Through his experiences with Wagner, Fortuny became a lighting engineer and set designer. As a set designer, he looked to create a smoother transition from one scene to another. He began experimenting with light and different ways to do this in the attic of his home in Italy. By reflecting light off of different surfaces he saw he could change the colour, intensity and properties of light. He used indirect lighting techniques in his new invention, the Fortuny cyclorama dome, a quarter dome shaped structure of plaster or cloth. The shape created the look of a more extensive sky and Fortuny could create any type of sky he wanted by reflecting light onto it in a certain way. Realizing that electricity had the potential to transform theatrical lighting, he developed in his Venetian palazzo-atelier-laboratory a system that used concave reflectors to reduce glare. He outlined this innovative, patented system in his treatise ‘Eclairage Scenique (1904) and utilized this technique in his desk light (1903) and floor light (1907). The latter helped to transform both theatrical and photographic lighting. The design, with its folding tripod base and umbrella-like reflector, is also known as the ‘Projector’ light.