Friday, March 18, 2011

Parentesi lamp | Achille Castiglioni and Pio Manzù | Flos, Italy | 1970

Parentesi lamp Achille Castiglioni and Pio Manzù
Parentesi lamp
Flos, Italy, 1970

I’ve previously posted about Achille Castiglioni (Sleek spoon) and Pio Manzù (Cronotime clock) and short biographies of the designers can be found in these posts.  I also promised to cover the Parentesi at some point, so here it is.  The Parentesi is a ceiling to floor suspension lamp designed by Achille Castiglioni and Pio Manzù and is an elegant, functional, and infinitely adjustable lighting solution.  Retail for the Parentesi lamp is $436.

Flos logo

Flos was founded in 1962 in Merano, Italy by Dino Gavina and Cesare Cassina.  In 1959 Arturo Eisenkeil from Merano, an importer of “Cocoon,” a spray-on plastic coating produced in the United States, was tracking down possible applications for this new material.

For Cocoon, liquid synthetic is ejected by means of a spray gun. While hardening it is spread out on a turning frame with a screen around it. One by one the screens are encapsulated. In this way a solid but light-dimming skin of a unique optical structure is formed – every light screen is an only copy.  The process is similar to spinning cotton candy.

Cocoon sprayer Synthetic sprayer.  Image source:  Cocoon.

Eisenkeil joined forces with Dino Gavina and Cesare Cassina and set up a company to produce lighting fixtures. This marked the beginning of the long-standing association between Flos and the Castiglioni brothers and Tobia Scarpa. The first cocoon lamps created were the offspring of this collaboration: Viscontea, Taraxacum and Gatto by the Castiglioni brothers and Fantasma by Scarpa.

Viscontea lamp Viscontea lamp

Taraxacum lampTaraxacum lamp

Gatto lampGatto lamp

Fantasma lampFantasma lamp

The very same year Flos was founded, it also produced a number of modern lamps that were to become classics in Italian industrial design. These first lamps were the Arco floor lamp, Relemme pendant lamp, Toio floor lamp and the Taccia Table Lamp.

Arco lamp Arco lamp

Relemme lamp Relemme lamp

Toio lamp Toio lamp

Taccia lampTaccia lamp

These four icons of modern lighting were designed by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni. Click here to be taken to the Sleek spoon, also designed by the pair.  As a tangible proof of their timeless design and technical excellence, these lamps remain in production today.

Pio Manzù Parentesi sketch

The design of the lamp was inspired by a sketch by Pio Manzù in which a cylindrical box with a slit for light slid up and down a pole and was fixed in place with a screw. According to the sketch, Manzù probably would have had the pole run from ceiling to floor.  Castiglioni replaces the pole with a metal cable which when curved through the bracket results in enough friction to  allow the assembly to remain stable in position with no need for a screw. Image source:  achillecastiglioni.it.

Parentesi lamp The Parentesi lamp is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  It was awarded the Compasso d’Oro in 1979.

Compasso d'Oro 
To install, a small metal cap, 2.5 inches in diameter, is attached to the ceiling using an appropriate expansion screw.  The ceiling cap has a hook that faces down.  One end of the cable is slipped over the hook.  The cable can be kept at its full length of 4 meters (13 feet) or trimmed as necessary.  An injection-molded, black elastomeric bulb holder houses the on/off switch.  The power cable tails off the back of the fixture and can be plugged into any outlet.  This fixture then slides onto the tubular, parenthesis shaped bracket, which then slides onto the cable.  The fixture can be adjusted and swiveled to direct light.  The bottom of the cable is attached to an adjusting bolt and hooked to a heavy, rubber coated weight, 4.3 inches in diameter at the bottom.  The bolt is then adjusted such that the weight just barely touches the floor.  The tension thus created holds the bracket in place.  Depending on the length the cable is cut to, an additional bracket can be accommodated and can be purchased separately.  The bracket and ceiling holder come in black enameled steel or nickel chrome finish.  The entire lamp weighs about 9 pounds.
Image source:  areaz.co.uk.

Lots of different bulbs will fit the Parentesi lamp, one suggested is a 120V, 120W, BR-40 reflector flood.  Some stores sell a 150W version for use with the lamp.  It really depends on how much light you want.   I use a 65W flood in mine.  

Castiglioni Parentesi lamp kit

When first sold, the Parentesi lamp came in a kit created by Castiglioni.  The kit was vacuum packed and featured handles that made it easy to carry.  Image source:  achillecastiglioni.it.

Parentesi lamp packaging

Now, all the parts of the lamp come tightly packed in a small cardboard box.

Parentesi lamp Parentesi lampAbove:  the Parentesi bracket in nickel chrome.  Below:  Parentesi lamp in low light conditions.

Parentesi lamp weight Parentesi lampParentesi lamp

Clockwise from upper left:  the rubber coated Parentesi weight and adjusting bolt, Parentesi bracket in black enamel, bottom view of Parentesi lamp.

Ingo Maurer designed the Hot Achille lamp as an homage to and celebration of the Parentesi lamp. Hot Achille consists of a freely rotatable aluminum reflector hung on a length of adjustable cable and powered by a counter-weight and electronic transformer with a continuously variable dimmer.

Hot Achille lamp Hot Achille lamp, detail

The Hot Achille lamp.  Image source:  YLighting.


Retrieved February 20, 2011 from http://stardust.com/floslighting.html

Retrieved February 20, 2011 from http://www.cocoon.ws/historie_en.html

Retrieved February 21, 2011 from http://www.achillecastiglioni.it/en/projects/id-17.html

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