Manual Skill

The art of making
"...a good design is not born of the ambition to leave a mark, but of the desire to set up a connection, however small, with the unknown person who will use the object…”

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The range of models of sanitary ware for Ideal Standard, in painted plaster, which astounded everyone at the firm’s headquarters in Brussels because it was so perfect that it was indistinguishable from the factory-made products.

Thus, these manual skills, which were and still are being deployed in Milan and in the Lombard region by generations of artisans, unrivalled in terms of ability and standards of perfection – not least those employed at the Sacchi and the Ghianda workshops – are a crucial part of the multi-pronged approach that all designers should adopt.  

By taking this approach, the solution to concrete problems can always be found in their objects, often simple solutions to complex problems, small touches, a pinch of irony, sometimes a playful slant, which never detract from its sense of functionality. 

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Castiglioni worked with craftsmen, and with Giovanni Sacchi’s workshop in particular, throughout his career and some of the wooden prototypes and others in plaster, produced by Perolini, show that the skills employed provided a means of giving the client a very real sense of an object, which virtual reality cannot, as yet, achieve.

Examples of these creative manual skills are the wooden prototypes of the camera designed for Ferrania in 1964. These prototypes also came in a plaster version, as seen in archive photos and which enable us to show how the object could be used.

The evolution of their design process cannot be traced to any particular “style”, the objects contain no recurring shapes nor specific personal touches: rationality is the thing that makes each object coherent and capable of interacting with the others, dictating the best solution for each of them.

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Real objects have to be designed and, especially, rendered three-dimensionally, and this was a lesson passed down to them from their father, a sculptor.

The Castiglioni brothers wrote very little … deliberately perhaps? In fact they were never given to technical or methodological ramblings, leaving their designs, their objects to speak for them. If one looks at their architectural practice, one sees that, at the beginning of their career, their prototypes were first made in plasticine and then in plaster – the same process their father used for his sculptures.

Their materials changed over time, but their approach remained the same, in fact their manual skills were underpinned by other craftsmen, making up the team that Achille remembers as a crucial element in the development of his career.

This is where his modernity truly lies, “a true designer works as part of a team designing and producing a range of objects that respond to real needs”. 

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