Marco Chiarolanza talks about Stilnovo. From prototype to product

stilnovo, saliscendi, salone milano

Stilnovo, Saliscendi, ruby red, photo courtesy

“The Saliscendi lamp by Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni was chosen in the ADI Index 2022. I see it as Stilnovo’s showpiece. It contains everything: inventiveness and pure mechanics combined with advanced electronics. And then, it’s beautiful, even when it’s switched off!” Conversation with Marco Chiarolanza, Stilnovo’s brand manager 

What do Linea Light Group and Stilnovo have in common?

At the Linea Light Group, since it was founded in 1976, we’ve worked metal, iron, small parts: all manually. In common with Stilnovo there’s the search for the relationship between form and function. I’m interested in how products are made. Only by explaining them can we convey their real value, beyond the selling price.

Stilnovo has to its credit very important names in design: Joe Colombo, Ettore Sottsass, Danilo and Corrado Aroldi, Antonio Macchi Cassia, the De Pas-d’Urbino-Lomazzi design office, Giovanni Luigi Gorgoni, Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, Livio and Piero Castiglioni, Gae Aulenti; in addition to Giancarlo Iliprandi, who designed the logo it now uses. A value difficult to replicate today.

stilnovo, saliscendi, light, salone milano

Stilnovo, Saliscendi, ruby red, photo courtesy

How did you identify the piece to be reissued?

For us it is important to touch lamps, experience them, use them. Interacting shows you whether a lamp is well designed or not. By operating the Saliscendi lamp or holding the Minibox by Gae Aulenti and Piero Castiglioni, you realize the reason for the choice of certain materials. An assonance between people who work physically and touch the materials.


How do you look to the future?

We have selected several young Italian designers who will work with us for the next three to four years. Among the great historical names a leading part will be played by Shigeaki Asahara, the Japanese designer who made the history of Stilnovo and who worked in the old team. Some of his pieces will soon be included in our catalogue modernized. A professional highly skilled at the technical level, uniquely gifted. He will have the task of ferrying design from past to future.

The Covid period was crucial because we had time to develop new collaborations without external influences. We managed to bring to light products lost over time and to reissue them with the same forms, geometries, angles and proportions.


Is Saliscendi part of this research?

As we worked towards Stilnovo in 2019 I found among thousands of documents a series of addresses and contacts of designers or heirs who had designed for Stilnovo, including the names of Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni. I contacted the Castiglioni Foundation, where I found the prototype of Saliscendi. In ’58 two had been installed in the Chamber of Commerce of Milan, then unfortunately they went missing...

It was a fantastic piece, perhaps too far ahead of its time. In its brilliance, it was very difficult mechanically. It had to be redefined in a modern way. 

We worked on it for a year and a half. We had to deal with its balance. The body of the lamp is not a cylinder or a sphere, it opens with O-ring cables. The upper plate had to remain parallel to the ceiling and floor at all times. Even an apparently banal cable has its own aesthetic structure. It has to slide through pulleys, it may be more or less rough or smooth, it has a certain diameter, it has to be round. If it has a flat section the shape of the holes in the plate need to be changed. And in this case sound is also one of the senses involved, because the movement has to be silent and delicate. All the senses were enclosed in a lamp!

A light, a diffuser and a movement: that’s all that was needed. The rest was extra.

stilnovo, minibox, light, salone milano

Stilnovo, Minibox wall, design Gae Aulenti and Piero Castiglioni, photo courtesy

How did you approach this process?

We had to make an idea frozen in time usable again and turn it into a lamp for everyone. We started from the historical drawings and involved all the heirs: Carlo, Giovanna and Giorgina Castiglioni. Some things were untouchable and had to remain fixed points.

We removed the spiral cable (in use at the time) and made sure that the mechanical O-ring cables carried the current, to keep the lines as clean as possible. The light source housed in the light body was the classic incandescent bulb. The shade was perforated and made for the dual emission and at the same time dissipated the heat emanating from the bulb itself. We had to eliminate the shadows and update the lamp in terms of light engineering. We replaced the bulb with a double LED source and added the electronic dimmer by remote switch, added to the mechanical one provided by the movement of the lamp body and diffusing plate.


Did you work on the proportions?

We halved it, from 120 to 60 cm compared to the original, all proportioned to scale. We saw the light source as the driver of the design and it’s fundamental, as are the aesthetics and finish of the product.


Did you adjust the color?

Historically , the Castiglioni brothers used shades of white, red and green, so we defined colors attributable to their world and ours. To me Stilnovo is synonymous with Italy, home... The red was ruby with a hint of cherry, a color rarely used in lamps.

For the colors we relied on Francesca Valan, color consultant for the Castiglioni family. The color they called “traffic light green”, we renamed meadow green. The white is the first gray in the scale of grays. 

stilnovo, valigia, salone milano

Stilnovo, Valigia, design Ettore Sottsass, photo courtesy

Stilnovo specializes in metalworking, so the choice on Saliscendi was very precise?

In Stilnovo’s forge of ideas we bent metal, worked on rods, screws, presses, lathes. It was a workshop. The goal of Stilnovo was also to reuse the leftover materials to make other lamps. Nothing was thrown away and there were also recycled pieces. It was green ante litteram. For example, Sottsass’s Valigia was made from recycled pieces specially worked by a brilliant person. 


Any sneak previews on Euroluce 2023?

Big surprises this year: it will be a stand to remember that will showcase the nature of Stilnovo. We want to make the new layout as contemporary as possible: social media, videos and historic lamps combined with contrasting personages. It is essential to be bold, and completely coherent. 


Saliscendi’s candidacy in the ADI Index 2022.

It was rightful to pay tribute to history and the heirs Giovanna, Carlo and Giorgina Castiglioni. We’re satisfied and honored to have Saliscendi in our catalogue. To me it’s all one big family. 


Which is the best-selling lamp?

Diphy by Mirco Crosatto, winner of an honorable mention at the Compasso d’Oro 2018, a man who has always been in the company, who has seen many products come and go, and has worked alongside many designers. He is the chief technician and worked on the re-engineering of Saliscendi, getting at the heart of the matter.

There are no soloists here. We work as a team.

stilnovo, saliscendi, salone milano

Stilnovo, Saliscendi, photo courtesy

stilnovo, saliscendi, salone milano

Stilnovo, Saliscendi, ruby red, photo courtesy

stilnovo, saliscendi, salone milano

Stilnovo, Saliscendi, courtesy Fondazione Achille Castiglioni

stilnovo, minibox, salone milano

Stilnovo, Minibox wall, design Gae Aulenti and Piero Castiglioni, photo courtesy

Salone del mobile Salone del mobile
31 March 2023