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The designers

From the Masters to the designers of today

Sketches by Joe Colombo of the Topo lamp
© IF-Studio Joe Colombo

The Masters

Gae Aulenti

© Archivio Gae Aulenti

Palazzolo dello Stella (UD), 1927 – Milan, 2012

A leading protagonist in the history of contemporary architecture, highly appreciated worldwide for her creative talent and, in particular, for her extraordinary ability to recover the cultural values of the historical heritage and the urban environment.

Particularly dedicated to the theme of architectural design and restoration, during her long career she won numerous awards including the prestigious Imperial Prize for Architecture awarded by the Japan Art Association in Tokyo. Shortly before her death in Milan at the age of 84, she was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award presented to her by the Triennale. In an official note of condolence, the then President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano remembers Gae Aulenti as “a leading protagonist in the history of contemporary architecture, highly appreciated throughout the world for her creative talent and, in particular, for her extraordinary ability to recover the cultural values of the historical heritage and the urban environment”.

As a testimony to his enormous artistic legacy and in his memory for future generations, the large circular square in the centre of the Unicredit Tower complex in Milan was named after him.

Main awards

Imperial Award (1991)

Marble Architectural Awards (2007)

Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement at the Milan Triennale (2012)

Achille e Pier Giacomo Castiglioni

© Fondazione Achille Castiglioni

Milan, 1918 – Milan, 2002 / A. Castiglioni
Milan, 1913 – Milan, 1968 / P. G. Castiglioni

Architects and designers, the brothers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni worked together from 1944 to 1968, bringing a unique inventiveness recognised as an international symbol of successful Made in Italy.

Advocates of a design strongly focused on functionality, from the 1950s onwards the two brothers (initially three in number, with their elder brother Livio leaving the studio in 1954) were the protagonists of an extraordinary rise. Minimalism, attention to detail, genius and unparalleled creativity, always focused on solving a concrete problem and never self-referential, are the qualities that accompanied their decades of work.

Working together until Pier Giacomo’s untimely death, the two brothers jointly designed works and architecture that revolutionised the history of architecture and design. Winners of important awards including several Compasso d’Oro prizes (12 in total) and numerous Silver and Gold Medals at the Triennale, the subject of monographs and retrospectives all over the world (the one dedicated to Achille is famous at the MoMA in NY), they are considered among the most important and influential Italian designers ever.

Main awards

Achille Castiglioni

8 Compasso d’Oro Awards (1955, 1960, 1962, 1964, 1967, 2x 1979, 1984)

1 Compasso d’Oro Career Prize (2020)

2 Grand Prizes at the Milan Triennale (1951, 1954)

2 Gold Medals at the Milan Triennale (1957, 1960)

2 Silver Medals at the Milan Triennale (1957, 1963)

1 Bronze Medal at the Milan Triennale (1947)

Pier Giacomo Castiglioni

5 Compasso d’Oro Awards (1955, 1960, 1962, 1964, 1967)

2 Grand Prizes at the Milan Triennale (1951, 1954)

2 Gold Medals at the Milan Triennale (1957, 1960)

2 Silver Medals at the Milan Triennale (1957, 1963)

1 Bronze Medal at the Milan Triennale (1947)

Livio Castiglioni

© Livio Castiglioni

Milan, 1911 – Lierna (LC), 1979

Renowned Italian architect and designer, Livio is the eldest of the Castiglioni brothers, the eldest son of sculptor Giannino Castiglioni. He graduated from the Faculty of Architecture at Milan Polytechnic in 1936 and four years later, in 1938, began his career in architecture and product design with his brother Pier Giacomo and fellow student Luigi Caccia Dominioni. Co-founder of the ADI in 1956 together with his brothers Achille and Pier Giacomo (Association for Industrial Design, of which he was president from 1959 to 1960) and creator of the Compasso d’Oro Award, in 1960 Livio Castiglioni decided to strike out on his own and devote himself to lighting design, working with the most famous lighting brands of the time, including Stilnovo. At the same time he worked with Phonola and, for twenty years, with Brionvega. In 1972 he opened a studio with his son Piero, intensifying his interest in lighting design and signing important lighting projects for exhibitions, art galleries, shops and hotels.

Piero Castiglioni

© Piero Castiglioni

Lierna, 1944

Pietro Maria Castiglioni, known as Piero, graduated in architecture in Milan in 1970 and dedicated almost his entire career to lighting design, taking care of the lighting design of buildings, art galleries, museums, urban areas, public and outdoor lighting, private homes, and showrooms.

‘Electrician before architect’, as he likes to call himself, Piero Castiglioni is today considered one of the world’s leading exponents of Lighting Design. His successes are the direct consequence of a long research conducted in the field, thanks to a solid technical-scientific culture, an empirical attitude and an uncommon curiosity. Initially a collaborator of his father Livio, whom he joined in 1972 and from whom he inherited his passion for light, his decades of activity in the field of both project and product design have greatly contributed to increasing the importance and consideration for the role of the lighting designer, overturning many common practices and proposing concepts more in keeping with the contemporary dimension, in the awareness that the matter of light can really be thought of in another way.

More than a thousand lighting projects all over the world bear Piero Castiglioni’s signature. Just to mention a few: the Orsay Museum, Palazzo Grassi in Venice, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan, the Sala dei Corazzieri in the Quirinale Palace in Rome, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Spasa na Krovi in St. Petersburg, the Garibaldi Complex in Porta Nuova in Milan, the Groninger Museum in Holland, the Brittany Museum – Champs Libres in Rennes, the Opera de la Bastille in Paris.

Main awards

Design de Ambientes Award 98/99

First prize ECC Design Award (2019)

Grande Ufficiale Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana (2020)

AIDI Light Prize 2021

Joe Colombo

© IF-Studio Joe Colombo

Milan, 1930 – Milan, 1971

Cesare ‘Joe’ Colombo with his style, defined as ‘futuristic’, determined by original figures with the most diverse inspirations, dynamic furnishing systems and the use of metals and bright colours, contributed to changing the everyday life, customs and habits of Italians and others.

Trained at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, he initially embarked on a career in art, joining the Nuclear Movement and taking part in several exhibitions by artists such as Enrico Baj, Sergio Dangelo, Lucio Fontana and Bruno Munari. He began to devote himself to architecture, interior and product design in 1961 and, three years later, opened a design studio in Milan. This was the beginning of a career full of successes and prestigious awards, unfortunately interrupted at the age of only 41 by a heart attack. Colombo contributed to redefining the professional figure of the industrial designer in 1960s Italy: in each of his projects, a completely innovative interest in the kinetic dimension and in the changeability and transformability of objects and spaces over time stands out. Even today, almost fifty years after his death, his most iconic products never cease to amaze.

Main awards

2 Compasso d’Oro Awards (1967, 1970)

1 Gold Medal at the Milan Triennale (1964)

1 First Prize at the SMAU in Milan (1971)

Jonathan De Pas
Donato D’Urbino
Paolo Lomazzi

© Studio DDL

Milan, 1932 – Milan, 1991 / J. De Pas

Milan, 1935 / D. D’Urbino

Milan, 1936 / P. Lomazzi

Since the founding of their ‘Studio De Pas, D’Urbino, Lomazzi’ (or Studio DDL) in 1966, the three designers have made a name for themselves with their unconventional, pop-inspired style, recognisable in many of their furniture items. They collaborated with the biggest companies in the furniture industry, winning the prestigious Compasso d’Oro Award in 1979. Studio DDL’s production is documented in the historical literature on Italian design and in leading international publications on architecture and industrial design.

Numerous works are present in the permanent design collections of various museums around the world and have been selected for travelling exhibitions on Italian design. The Studio has operated and continues to operate after De Pas’s death in the design of architecture, objects, furnishings and in the field of town planning, combining design activity with cultural and educational activities.

Main awards

1 Compasso d’Oro Award (1979)

1 Compasso d’Oro Career Prize (awarded to D’Urbino and Lomazzi, 2018)

Giovanni Luigi Gorgoni

© Giovanni Luigi Gorgoni

Milan, 1937

A pupil of Gio Ponti, Ernesto Nathan Rogers and Vittorio Gregotti, he graduated in Architecture from Milan Polytechnic. As a self-employed professional, he has had the opportunity to express himself in the most diverse design sectors: from architecture, town planning, urban furnishing to product design. He has designed prestigious projects for Milan, Rome, Madonna di Campiglio, Porto Cervo, Benghazi, Misurata, Tripoli, Jeddah, Paris, Cannes, Lyon, Yaoundé, London and New York.

Main awards

VIA Prize awarded by the French Industries and Design Association (2007)

Antonio Macchi Cassia

© Antonio Macchi Cassia

Milan, 1937

Antonio Macchi Cassia is undoubtedly one of the Italian designers most attentive to the balance between creativity, technological updating and production factors. An engineer graduate from the School of Mechanical Engineering in Freiburg, Switzerland, Macchi Cassia has traversed the season of Italian design since the 1960s.

Twenty-five years of collaboration with Olivetti as a consultant in the Industrial Design sector helped shape his design background, with an important conviction: design is the rigorous search for solutions capable of getting the most out of the present. He therefore interprets his work as a profession anchored in the production process and as an intellectual exercise in the search for quality and effective performance, focusing above all on products and services for our daily and collective lives.

The results reward this design philosophy: several times winner of the 1st Smau Industrial Design Award, Compasso d’Oro Career Prize, his products are in the Permanent Collection of the MoMA in NY and in the Design Museum of the Milan Triennale.

Main awards

1 Smau Industrial Design Award (1980, 1983, 1984, 1993)

1 Compasso d’Oro Career Prize (2016)

Ettore Sottsass

© Barbara Radice

Architect, designer and photographer, founder of the famous design and architecture collective known as the ‘Memphis Group‘ and active between 1981 and 1987, Ettore Sottsass Jr. succeeded in expressing, through his style and production, the emerging ideas of Counterdesign, openly criticising the common style and taste of the time and reacting through almost total experimentation in materials, shapes and colours.

His creativity and restless genius made the fortunes of many brands, in particular Olivetti, and earned him important awards including no less than three Compasso d’Oro. There are many major exhibitions dedicated to him: in 1976, at the Cooper Hewitt in New York and at the International Design Zentrum in Berlin, at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 1994 and 2003, at the Design Gallery Milan in 1988, 1993 and 1995, at the Suntory Museum in Ōsakadel 2000, at the Museum of Decorative Art in Cologne in 2004 and at the MART in Rovereto in 2005. His works are held in the most prestigious museum institutions in the world.

Main awards

3 Compasso d’Oro Awards (1959, 1970, 1989)

1 IF Design Award (1994)

1 Red Dot Design Award (2007)

Grande Ufficiale Ordine al Merito della Repubblica italiana (2001)

Gold Medal for Culture and Art (2005)

Studio Nizzoli Associati

Milan, 1931 | Alessandro Mendini

Naples, 1936 | Paolo Viola

Palermo, 1921 | Giuseppe Vito Oliveri

In 1947, Giuseppe Vito Oliveri, known as Mario, began working for the Studio Marcello Nizzoli at Via Rossini 3 in Milan. Together with Nizzoli, he developed important projects for Olivetti and the ENI Group. When Nizzoli left the business in 1965, Mario Oliveri founded Studio Nizzoli Associati with Alessandro Mendini and Paolo Viola. The Studio’s headquarters, at Nizzoli’s legendary atelier, thus continued to be a haven of experimentation and creativity. It was here that Alessandro Mendini began a career that would see him be a renewer of Italian industrial design, an international award-winner, the editor of many architecture magazines, and the name behind prestigious architectural projects and products that have become icons over time. Paolo Viola, an engineer but also an urban planner and architect, would work on urban design, buildings for culture and, above all, ports and waterfronts as the great passions of his life. Amongst the Studio’s various works is the town planning project submitted in 1967 to the international competition for the southern district of the city of Bratislava, which was awarded an Honourable Mention by the judges.

Main awards

3 Compasso d’Oro Awards (Alessandro Mendini – 1970, 1981, 2014)

1 European Prize for Architecture (Alessandro Mendini – 2014)

Richard Sapper

Munich, 1932

German by birth but universally regarded as one of the leading exponents of Made in Italy design, much of Richard Sapper’s award-winning career is in fact linked to Milan, where for more than half a century, from 1958 onwards, he changed the way we understand design with his non-conformist style and unrelenting curiosity. Many projects were bequeathed by the genius from Munich, including the Halley, one of the very first attempts to turn LED into a designer lamp. As a reminder of Sapper’s great contributions are no less than 10 Compasso d’Oro awards from 1960 to 1998, along with a Compasso d’Oro Career Award in 2014.

Main awards

10 Compasso d’Oro Awards (1960, 1962, 1964, 1967, 1979, 1987, 1991, 1995 plus 2 in 1998)

1 Compasso d’Oro Career Award (2014)

Danilo e Corrado Aroldi

Casalmaggiore, 1925 | Danilo Aroldi

Milano, 1936 | Corrado Aroldi

Born in 1925 in Casalmaggiore (CR), Danilo Aroldi moved with his family to Milan in 1936, the same year his brother Corrado was born. In the 1950s and 1960s, the city of Milan became one of Europe’s most vibrant hubs for graphic design, advertising and design. And it was in Milan in the early 1960s that the two brothers founded the Studio Danilo e Corrado Aroldi – Architettura e Industrial Design, signing several product design projects included in the permanent collections of the MoMA in New York and the Triennale di Milano, selected for the Compasso d’Oro and included in exhibitions all over the world, in France, Russia, Turkey, Japan and the United States.

The Contemporaries

Mirco Crosatto

Treviso, 1976

Born in Treviso on 28 November 1976, Mirco Crosatto is establishing himself as one of the most capable and innovative product designers in the lighting field, always attentive to the latest trends and technological developments in the world of lighting.

He has been with Linea Light Group since 1997 and today, in addition to being Head of the R&D Department, he personally designs and follows the evolution of many products within the company. In his work, he has collaborated with various designers and leading figures, and is in constant contact with the great masters of Made in Italy who have made the history of Stilnovo and/or their respective heirs in the re-editions of their greatest successes.

For Stilnovo, Mirco Crosatto has signed some outstanding creations, famous also thanks to the International Awards they have won. Like Reflexio, which won the prestigious IF Design Award in 2018; or Lama, Mr.Magoo and the Tablet floor lamp, which won the Red Dot Award. Some of the most popular products on the market include the Diphy lamp, which won the Red Dot Award 2017, was included in the AIT Trends in the same year and was awarded an Honourable Mention at the Compasso d’Oro ADI 2018; last but not least, the Demì hemispherical lamp and the Derby sound-absorbing lamp, both of which were awarded the Red Dot Award 2019.

Main awards

1 Honourable Mention at the Compasso d’Oro Award (2018)

5 Red Dot Awards (2011, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019)

1 IF Design Award (2018)

Edin Dedovic

Davide Oppizzi

Davide Oppizzi, a Swiss designer, is the founder of DCUBE design espaces lumière SA, an agency specialising in high-end architecture, design and lighting projects based in Geneva. Extremely versatile, his production ranges from lighting to furniture, from interior design to high-tech.

Its style, often inspired by nature, winks at industrial design with a focus on sustainability and material experimentation, balancing technology and aesthetics in each creation. Prestigious brands around the world have commissioned Davide Oppizzi for projects that reflect the bond between human beings and nature.
Often the focus of his work and research, lighting design represents one of the Swiss designer’s greatest passions, and he has been successfully translating its principles into innovative projects and products for major international companies for years.

Main awards

1 Ideat Design Lighting (2021)

1 A’Design Award (2018)

1 MIAW Award (2017)

1 Red Dot Award (2016)

1 London Design Award – Silver (2015)

1 Interior Design Best of Year (2014)

1 ARCHIPRODUCTS Awards best of 2014

1 PIA Product Innovation Design Award (2013)

Pio e Tito Toso

Venice, 1971 / Tito Toso

Venice, 1973 / Pio Toso

The brothers Pio and Tito Toso were both born in Venice. Also in Venice, they graduated in architecture in 1998. In 1996 they opened the design studio PIO&TITOTOSO.

They work in the field of architecture, realising numerous projects nationally and internationally, and participate in various competitions. They also collaborate in the field of furniture and design, working with important companies in the field of lighting and furniture. They design stands, exhibitions, shops, offices and warehouses for various companies, taking care of their image and graphics.

Pio and Tito Toso have won numerous awards, including the ‘Design Plus’ in 2016, the ‘Good Design Award’ in 2009 and several Red Dot Design Awards. They have participated in exhibitions in Europe and the United States.

Main awards

1 Design Plus (2016)

3 Red Dot Awards (2012, 2015, 2017)

1 Good Design Award (2009)

Shigeaki Asahara

Kunitachi, 1948

A native of Kunitachi, Tokyo, and initially devoted to painting, Asahara discovered his vocation for product design in Italy. From the 1980s onwards, he began his career as a designer, excelling mainly in lighting and creating icons that still delight thanks to their beauty and contemporaneity. Having continuously alternated between Italy and Japan, Asahara even worked with Stilnovo, amongst others. The pair have recently reunited in the interest of design continuity, in view of the plethora of masterpieces from the past created for the Milanese brand.

Main awards

18 IF Design Awards (1984, 3 in 1991, 1992, 1993, 2 in 1994, 1995, 1999, 2004, 6 in 2005, 2007)

2 GOOD DESIGN – Ministry of Industry Awards, Japan (1989, 1996)
Certificat d’Exellence at the Montréal International Design Show

Brian Sironi

Seregno, 1977

“In 2004, after graduating in Industrial Design from the Polytechnic University of Milan, Brian Sironi began collaborating with architects, designers and artisans in the design sector, including with carpenters, blacksmiths, carvers and upholsterers.
Sironi continued his training In 2007, this time in the United States. Once returning back to Italy, he then founded Studio Brian Sironi in 2009.
In his work, Sironi focuses on the connection between object and user, form and function, to improve people’s everyday lives, even in a few details or individual gestures. Born in 1979, Sironi was the youngest recipient of a Compasso d’Oro, awarded at the 22nd edition. Indeed, his professional career was quickly enriched with international successes.

Main awards

1 Compasso d’Oro Award (2011)

2 Good Design Award (2011-2012)

1 IF Design – Gold Award (2010)

1 Red Dot Design Award (2011)

1 Premio Design dello Stupore – Young&Design Competition, Rima Editrice, Milan

Honorable Mention in I.D. Annual Design Review (2010)


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