Parentesi Turns 50!

Flos celebrates the iconic lamp designed by Achille Castiglioni and Pio Manzù with a Special Edition in Turquoise and Signal Orange and a re-edition of the original packaging.

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17/09/2021 - Parentesi turns 50! The cult object  designed by Achille Castiglioni and Pio Manzù for Flos is released in two new shades to celebrate its creators. Turquoise and Signal Orange are the two colours chosen for the Special Edition of the best seller in production since 1971.
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During Milan Design Week, Flos design curators, Fabio Calvi e Paolo Brambilla, unveiled the re-edition of Parentesi, meticulously reinterpreted without alterations to the legendary project. The starting point was the designers' personal passion for the original version of this iconic lamp. In the Special Edition, each minute design choice is the result of a philological approach based on their in-depth knowledge of the history of this Italian design classic.

From packaging to colors: the re-discovery of the original design

The Parentesi Special Edition is a filological operation of design culture that includes every detail of both lamp and packaging.

The original packaging: the last element of a total design

When it was launched, Parentesi was sold in a ‘naked’ packaging, two plastic shells made in a single mold. Although no-one knows how much of Manzù’s work was known to Castiglioni, it’s remarkable to notice that the packaging was made with the same technology that the FIAT 127 designer used for promotional cases for FIAT.  And that the transparency of the packaging, which gives dignity to the individual elements, recalls how the car designer exhibited mechanical parts at trade fairs: on the wall, like works of art.
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This particular packaging, still stuck in design enthusiasts’ minds, was abandoned after a few years from early production for unknown reasons – probably related to costs and some stability issues. Yet in the name of philological care and of the “total design” approach that generated Parentesi, Flos has decided to repropose it. New manufacturing capabilities and digitalization have made Castiglioni’s packaging an easy and cost-effective solution, as well as a philologically appropriate one.

The new colors

Turquoise and Signal Orange were singled out after a careful study of the two maestros’ work, carried out by the Flos design curators Calvi Brambilla with Achille Castiglioni’s daughter Giovanna and with Pio Manzù’s son Giacomo Manzoni.

The particular Turquoise that is applied to the special edition Parentesi is one that Achille Castiglioni was very fond of: “he had seen it on a box of paper clips which he kept on his desk”, recalls Giovanna, “and he loved it so much that he used it to decorate all the doors of our flat in the early 70s”.

Signal Orange was, on the contrary, the color that Pio Manzù used for all his car prototypes: a constant in his work of automotive designer throughout the years.
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In the special edition Parentesi, colors are applied to all the elements that form the “bracket” (in Italian, parentesi) as it was foreseen in the original design: hence on the tubular element that allows the lamp to stop along the metal rod, on the canopy and on the base. One may argue that in the original production Parentesi the latter has always been black and it would be a fair argument. But by looking at the early sketches, Flos realized that the base was also supposed to be colored but wasn’t due to the technical difficulties of coloring rubber. Hence the decision to replace it with silicon and go back to what Castiglioni meant to be, and never was.

The two colors are complementary to each other. So while being each a homage to one of the creators, they also connect Castiglioni and Manzù together once again in a subtle and cultivated way, and further fuel the story of this incredible object that was born, from the very start, from an impossible dialogue between two design geniuses who never actually met.

Celebrating collaboration and respect for creativity

Parentesi is also a celebration of collaboration and respect for mutual creativity. When Achille Castiglioni received on his desk the sketch that Pio Manzù’s widow had managed to get to him, he was triggered by the idea of a light-emitting tin with slits that could move up and down a floor-to-ceiling pole, turn 180 degrees and be blocked with a screw. Parentesi was born from that original idea but also changed in a dramatic way in the final design: the pole became a metal line, the tin a mere bulb, the screw was replaced with a tubular that caused friction along the line and blocked the lamp in position, the tension was guaranteed using a boat tensioner and a 5 kg weight that didn’t even touch the floor.
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“Despite the amazing amount of work that he and Flos’ technicians had to put into making Parentesi an actual product, Castiglioni decided to equally share its paternity with Pio Manzù”, recalls his son Giacomo today. “It was a gesture of great respect towards the value of original thinking that says a lot about him and about the standing that design innovation had in Italy at that time”.

It is the same respect that today Flos applied in the development of the special edition Parentesi. In the choice of colors, as we said, and where to apply them. But also in the remaking of the original packaging.

All other elements, that is to say all that is held within the “bracket” (the bulb and the lamp holder) remain as in the traditional model.

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