Shelf life: Karakter resuscitates dormant Achille Castiglioni designs for Salone

Shelf life: Karakter resuscitates dormant Achille Castiglioni designs for Salone

Danish furniture brand Karakter has been wowing us since its launch in 2014, commissioning new designs from the likes of Aldo Bakker, Milia Seyppel and PlueerSmitt and, since last year, recreating archive pieces by Joe Colombo. Now it is reviving a collection of shelving systems by Achille Castiglioni, which will be unveiled during April’s Salone del Mobile

Karakter’s founder Christian Elving worked closely with the designer’s family and the Fondazione Achille Castiglioni in Milan to create faithful reproductions of the original designs. ‘We are the first non-Italian company to reproduce Castiglioni’s work,’ says Elving. ‘We started a dialogue with the foundation about his designs, and I discovered many pieces I didn’t know. These new reissues are the objects that caught my eye.’

The ‘Libreria Pensile’, a series of black shelves supported by string and designed with Castiglioni’s brother Pier Giacomo, was originally created for their 1957 exhibition at Villa Olmo in Como. The installation was a manifesto of sorts and debuted what would become iconic Castiglioni pieces such as the ‘Sella’ seat (essentially a bike saddle on a stick). 

‘Rampa’, a multifunctional station on wheels from 1965, was inspired by the traditional florist’s display stands found on Italian town squares. On one side, the steps serve as a bookshelf, while the back can be used as a writing desk. Later designs include ‘Trio’ and ‘Comodo’, designed between the end of the 1980s and early 1990s by Castiglioni with his collaborator Giancarlo Pozzi (his brother Pier Giacomo died in 1968), and ‘Lungangolo’, which he designed in 1991. 

Karakter’s replica collection features matt lacquer, soap-treated oak. And although the pieces are being produced in Denmark, Elving has endeavoured to replicate the manufacturing process of the originals too. There are many similarities, he notes, between iconic Italian design of the 20th century, and traditional Scandinavian style.

The collection marks the beginning of what Elving hopes will be a longer-term collaboration with the Fondazione Achille Castiglioni, but is also part of a wider and ongoing celebration of iconic Italian design. Next year, Elving plans to reissue lighting designs by Angelo Mangiarotti. 

For Elving, Castiglioni is a great example of what Italian design is about: ‘He made everyday necessities into something beautiful. He turned functional solutions into thoughtful and desirable objects.’

As originally featured in the May 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*206)

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