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A history of Flos in 15 objects

Milestones in decorative lighting

1960 | The Cocoon Viscontea is important, not only because it took a novel packaging process and material, re-purposing it as dramatic and sculptural luminaires, but because it brought together Flos founder Dino Gavina and the Castiglioni brothers. This gave birth to one of the most exciting and productive creative partnerships. Viscontea was one of two designs created for a collection commissioned by Arturo Eisenkeil, owner of the Cocoon technology. 

1962 | Arco is the first lamp produced by the Castiglioni brothers under the Flos brand name and it has become one of the most powerful and recognised design icons in the world. Taking its inspiration from the street lamp, Arco redefines the way of lighting a table, replacing the pendant with a transportable steel and Carrara marble arc light. Arco was recognised in 2020 as Winner of the Premio Compasso d’Oro. 

1962 | Taccia plays with the idea of taking a pendant lamp and turning it upside down to perform as a directional table or floor lamp. The shape of the base takes its inspiration from the fins on a motorcycle engine, acting to disperse the heat generated by the enclosed lamp. This was clever lateral problem solving after the original base design had distorted. 

1962 | Toio is included as it represents for the first time an entirely fresh approach to design. The transfer of components from one product to create another is something Achille Castiglioni focused on across his lighting and furniture design. Here, the car headlamp linked to a car battery via a cable held by fishing rod eyelets creates a new design language. Toio is in the permanent collections of MoMa, the Victoria & Albert and other museums around the world. 

1967 | Snoopy by Achille & Pier Giacomo Castiglioni is a design that reminds us of Charlie Brown’s beagle. Snoopy is the first expression of the sense of playfulness that the Castiglionis brought to their designs. With white marble base and rich glossy enamelled reflector, Snoopy has become a true classic, just like Charles Schulz’s original creation. 

1971 | Parentesi by Achille Castiglioni & Pio Manzù was the seminal adjustable lamp that could be directed at one area, such as a painting, or moved around when needed for reading or knitting. The lamp slides up and down a slim metal wire and this versatile design is a fine example of early industrial chic with exposed bulb and combination of materials. Winner of the 1979 Premio Compasso d’Oro. 

1973 | 265 by Paolo Rizzatto is possibly the most functional and utilitarian wall lamp ever produced. With its slender, perfectly balanced and cantilevered arm, the 265 allows the light to be directed anywhere on walls or tables in an arc of over 4 metres. This is a piece of perfect engineering where form follows function and out of which emerges a beautiful simplicity. 

1991 | Miss Sissi by Philippe Starck is included in this selection because it demonstrates the way in which Flos fuses classic design cues and modern technology. Miss Sissi captures a recognisable silhouette of a classic table lamp which is now created using polycarbonate and injection moulding that produces the entire lamp base and ‘shade’ in only three pieces. 

2005 | Guns by Philippe Starck is a unique and, perhaps, disturbing collection. Created by Starck as a comment on capitalism and its fallout including conflict and strife, the gold represents a collision between money and war, the black shade is death and the crosses on the inside serve to remind us of our loved ones. 20% of the sales of Guns is donated to Frères des Hommes, a charity dedicated to abolishing poverty around the world. 

2009 | Kelvin LED by Antonio Citterio (with Toan Nguyen) is a modern take on the traditional swing arm desk light. Precision engineering and sophisticated joints replace springs while an energy efficient LED light source replaces the incandescent lamp. In 2015, Citterio revisited his design, this time employing LED Edge technology as the light source. The rest of the luminaire has remained unchanged proving that good design doesn’t require unnecessary reinvention. 

2013 | Aim by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec represents a synthesis of ideas that have gone before, all designed to ‘liberate’ light from a single fixed point with a facility to direct it to where it’s needed. However, Aim allows you to build a collection of lamps from a single point, at different heights, creating what might be described as an omnidirectional modern chandelier. 

2014 | IC Light by Michael Anastassiades is important because it’s one of his first designs for Flos and gives notice of a truly distinctive approach to the creative process. Inspired by the art of the ‘ball manipulation’, the IC collection of wall, ceiling, table floor and suspension lamps features an opalised glass globe that appears to float unaided next to a metal stem. 

2018 | Bellhop by Barber & Osgerby, originally designed for the Design Museum restaurant in London, is the first LED rechargeable lamp produced by Flos, thus allowing light to become completely portable. Affectionately known as the ‘modern day candle’ Bellhop has gradually been evolved into a range of indoor and outdoor fittings in an assortment of attractive contemporary colours. 

2018 | Arrangements by Michael Anastassiades represents a technical leap, despite its simple beauty. Taking inspiration from fine jewellery, the individual elements hang from each other like earrings, with each element taking the power to the next via almost invisible connections. This is lighting perceived in a wholly innovative and exciting way and rightly is a multiple award winner in all four corners of the globe. Arrangements has also been awarded the ultimate accolade – the Premio Compasso d’Oro in 2020. 

2020 | Oblique by Vincent Van Duysen turns the concept of the adjustable desk lamp on its head and recognises the way that we all rely on smart devices. Instead of a swing arm, the light beam is asymmetric, delivered via a patented lens while a wireless base and USB port are available for recharging smartphones, tablets and laptops. Quite simply, Oblique brings the desk lamp right up to date and into the 21st century. 

Achille Castiglioni 
& Pio Manzù 

Paolo Rizzatto

Philippe Starck

Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec 

Michael Anastassiades

Barber & Osgerby

Vincent Van Duysen

Antonio Citterio

Achille Castiglioni

Piergiacomo Castiglioni

This article and more are on our Fresh Magazine Issue n.1 2021