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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Arco
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Estimated reading time
4 Minutes

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Arco

An Arco lamp reaches across my uncle and aunt’s dining table. As a young girl I was captivated by the distorted reflection of my face in the lampshade, now I’ve come to appreciate this piece of design history, which used to light up my elevenses.

But when and how did Arco come into being, this mix of a floor and a ceiling lamp, which can safely rest on the floor at the same time as it arches over the table?

Light that reaches out.
Disegno dei Castiglionisketches by the Castiglioni brothers

The first one, the quintessential Arco lamp

Generated by the genius of the Castiglioni brothers and manufactured by Flos, Arco is the first bow-shaped lamp in design history. The Castiglioni brothers’ challenge was to point light from above thus avoiding the option of a standard pendant light, which would have in turn required a fixed structure. However, the bow-shaped lamp the Castiglioni brothers were dreaming of had to be portable and carried around.

We were thinking of a lamp which would project light onto a table: such lamps already existed, but you had to walk around them.
Achille Castiglioni – interview for Ottagono, 1970

Not only had the lamp to be portable, you also needed to be able to move around it: the lamp wasn’t meant to obstruct light and its use. Pier Giacomo and Achille went for readily available materials, bending a steel rod into the shape they needed.

They also studied the matter of the counter-weight carefully: they preferred marble to a concrete block, because on a weight for weight basis marble takes up less space – therefore its finishing process is also cheaper. This is how the iconic 65 kg. block was brought into the equation.

Arco has been a great success in many ways: not only is it an icon of both Italian and industrial design, it is also one of the most famous products on the world market. It’s part of the permanent collection of the Triennale di Milano and of the MoMa in New York, and in 2007 Arco was the first ever piece in the world of industrial design to receive copyright permission, just like a work of art.

In Arco nothing is decorative: even the bevelled corners on the base have a function, which is not to hurt us; even the hole isn’t a just flight of fantasy, but aimed at making it easier to lift the base.
Achille Castiglioni – interview for Ottagono, 1970

Arco floor lamp
Arco LED floor lamp
Arco floor lamp

Graceful like a Lady

Lady Costanza is everything her name promises to be: an elegant, poised and restrained creature. Simply shaped, Lady Constanza has an understated manner which doesn’t go unnoticed nevertheless.

Luceplan has created an extremely lightweight and modern lamp: its polycarbonate shade is supported by an aluminium frame which in turn rests on a flat stand and takes up a minimum amount of space; this is why the stem can turn through 360 degrees.

Nothing more is needed: this is its virtue.

Twiggy in all its colours

Then, designer Marc Sadler and the brand Foscarini have gradually simplified this concept, focussing on a sharp contrast between the lampshade and the gentle curve of the bow.

Sticking to the same technology that they have used for other products, Marc Sadler and Foscarini have gone yet again for glass-fibre, but the end result is completely different from that of previous designs – though the difference is not immediately evident to the naked eye.

Lady Costanza floor lamp
Lady Costanza floor lamp
Lady Costanza floor lamp

The history of the bow

What’s the future of bow-shaped lamps? FontanaArte focuses on the past and on tradition – especially Japanese tradition.

Yumi stands for kanji which is a bow, the same bow as is used for hunting, war and protection, a really important object in the eyes of the Japanese aristocracy. Designer Shigeru Ban draws inspiration from its pure and taut silhouette.

The uniqueness of these objects lies in the fact that the bow is itself the source of light:170 built-in Leds stress the subtlety of the curve, almost turning it into a calligraphy character – as if it were drawn with ink.

Twiggy floor lamp
Twiggy floor lamp
Twiggy floor lamp
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